Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Quiz

One of New York's finest is giving one of the city's solid citizens a stern facial reprimand. It's not your job to find out who is making the trouble nor to guess who this mustached cop is.... just name the title of the film this scene is from. Isn't that easy now! Don't worry, we won't be handing out tickets for wrong guesses. 

As always, if you are unfamiliar with the rules to the game or the prize, click here

Friday, December 12, 2014

Nugget Reviews - 15

Knights of the Round Table ( 1954 ) 14k

King Arthur earns the throne of England and leads the kingdom into its happiest days, until the wicked Mordred plots to undermine his rule by claiming Sir Lancelot is having an affair with Queen Guinevere. Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Mel Ferrer, Stanley Baker. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Directed by Richard Thorpe.

Considering that the King Arthur fables are as old as dust it is surprising that an earlier version of Knights of the Round Table was not made. This film plays out like a Technicolor MGM remake of a superior 1930s Warner Brothers swashbuckler. Robert Taylor is quite good as Sir Lancelot and Baker is as menacing as ever, but Gardner fails to impress as Queen Guinevere. She just doesn't have the makings of a noble, self-sacrificing queen. Overall, it's a fun sojourn into the merry medieval days of yor and the writers managed to condense a very lengthy legend into a tidy 2 hour film. 

The Black Arrow ( 1948 ) 14k

A young noble returns from the War of the Roses to find his father has been slain by his wicked uncle. With the aid of an outlaw, the Black Arrow, he vows to avenge his father's death and clear the name of the fugitive who was blamed for this crime.  Louis Hayward, Janet Blair, George Macready. Columbia Pictures. Directed by Gordon Douglas. 

Based on a famous novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Black Arrow, is an entertaining swashbuckler from Columbia Pictures but fails to become a memorable film in spite of its talented cast. Louis Hayward, at age 39, is rather old to be the impetuous youth the role called for. Keep your eyes out for the man dressed in drag happily waving to Sir Brackley when he enters the court. We don't know what that was all about.

Test Pilot ( 1938 ) 14k

A test pilot crash lands his plane on a Kansas farm, falls in love with the lady he meets there, marries her and then spooks her out of her wits on a daily basis with his reckless test flights. Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Myrna Loy. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Directed by Victor Fleming. 

Test Pilot was planned to be Metro's big all-out production of the year. They took their most bankable stars and gathered them together for this film which was based on an original story by a formal naval test pilot. It became the smash-hit they hoped for and united those onscreen lovebirds - Loy and Gable - for the third time. Tracy and Gable united just once more ( for Boom Town ) even though they didn't hit it off on the set of Test Pilot. Nevertheless, they had great comradery onscreen and turned a simple plot into a believable action film. 

The Lost Moment ( 1947 ) Elct.

A publisher travels to Venice to purchase the lost love letters of a 19th century poet and winds up falling in love with the schizophrenic niece of the poet's old lover. Robert Cummings, Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead. Universal Pictures. Directed by Martin Gabel. 

This movie is depressing as heck. The cinematography is really nice and the story line great but the overall feel of the film just didn't allow us to warm up to it. Robert Cummings was best in comedy roles and always seems miscast in films with characters that must show really deep thought. Moorehead's makeup job was great though. The film managed to return only half of its initial budget. A small failure for Martin Gabel, the director, taking the helm on his first production.

Bachelor Mother ( 1939 )  18k 

Worried that the baby would fall, a department store salesgirl scoops up an infant left on the doorstep of an orphanage and then finds herself mistaken to be its mother.  Ginger Rogers, David Niven, Charles Coburn, Frank Albertson. RKO. Directed by Garson Kanin.

RKO had a knack of creating low-budget films with high-budget entertainment quality. This one sparkles with humor, light drama, and the requisite romance. The film trots along at a brisk pace and all of the principal actors play their roles delightfully. Alas, Rogers only gets to do one twirl around the floor but the comedy more than makes up for the lack of toe-tapping scenes. A great after-Christmas-before-New-Year-film!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

In Theaters Christmas 2014: Two Classic Films!

Hot marshmallows! Just when we were giving up hope of seeing any good classics on the big-screen this December, Fanthom Events released this drool-worthy bit of news : TCM is bringing A Christmas Carol ( 1938 ) and Christmas in Connecticut ( 1945 ) to the big screen in select theaters nationwide. It's a double feature! 

"Double the pleasure, double the fun, it's the statement of a great film...."

Of course, most of our readers probably heard this already so you're thinking it is old news, but we're spreading the word for those anti-cable folks like ourselves who live in the dark ages when it comes to hearing the classic film set scoop. There's no time to debate about attending which showing because the films are playing one day only, and that one day is this Sunday. You can catch the films at 2pm or 7pm. 

To make things extra gooey-gumbo delicious : White Christmas ( 1954 ) will also be showing in select theaters on December 14th and 15th in a new digital transfer to celebrate the 60th anniversary of this holiday classic. Oh boy, it really is a wonderful life!

Buy Tickets for White Christmas 
Buy Tickets for A Christmas Carol 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ron Goodwin - Composer

Ron Goodwin ( Feb. 17, 1925 - January 8, 2003 ) 

Ron Goodwin was a prolific composer who scored over 60 feature films throughout the 1960s and 1970s. He got his start in the industry in the mid-1940s arranging music for popular British artists of the day such as Ted Heath, Geraldo, and the BBC orchestra, but within five years switched to conducting orchestras for recording companies such as Polygon Records. Later, he worked with George Martin at Parlophone Records where he was kept busy arranging and conducting music for over 300 recordings, including a series of Peter Sellers LPS and Goodwin's own music, released under the Ron Goodwin and His Concert Orchestra name. 

It was during the 1960s that Goodwin became the top-notch film composer that we know of today when he began work with MGM British film studios, scoring it big with the jaunty titular tune to Murder She Said ( 1961 ) and his excellent 633 Squadron ( 1964 ) theme. During the early 1970s Goodwin joined with the Walt Disney Studios and composed the themes to many of their British productions. 

For over thirty years, Ron Goodwin also toured the world performing film and popular music in concerts to vast crowds of enthusiastic listeners. 

Signature Style

Mr.Goodwin often arranged trumpets with string but his unique stamp is most probably his rousing war film themes, which utilized plenty of horns and his spunky "old English lady" music, which could be heard in the Miss Marple themes and The Alphabet Murders

The Noteworthy Five

Whirlpool ( 1958 ) - One of Goodwin's first film scores and such a lovely score this is.

The Trials of Oscar Wilde ( 1960 ) - A powerful and yet gentle theme wrapped into one. The clashing cymbals offset the beautiful strains of the strings.  

Murder, She Said ( 1961 ) - Simply unforgettable. A truly unique piece of music to fit a truly unique series of mystery films. 

633 Squadron ( 1964 ) - The famous six-beat three-beat theme, played on french horns. 

Where Eagles Dare ( 1968 ) - An epic score to match an epic adventure film. 

Highlights of his Discography

  • The Trials of Oscar Wilde ( 1960 )
  • Village of the Damned ( 1960 ) 
  • The Day of the Triffids ( 1963 )
  • Of Human Bondage ( 1964 ) 
  • Operation Crossbow ( 1965 ) 
  • The Alphabet Murders ( 1965 ) 
  • The Battle of Britain ( 1969 )
  • Frenzy ( 1970 )
  • One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing ( 1975 )
  • The Littlest Horse Thieves ( 1976 ) 
  • Candleshoe ( 1977 ) 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Blessed Thanksgiving!

Howie ol' boy, if you eat that whole turkey yourself you'll keel over!

We have a lot to be thankful for : a wonderful family, good health, a business we love working for, a swell kitty-kat, and a whole slew of great movies that we have a lifetime to enjoy and share with others. We hope that all of you, dear readers, have had a wonderful Thanksgiving too and are enjoying a blessed life to savor each and every day. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dennis Hoey - A Closer Inspection

"Why, if it isn't Mr. 'Olmes!"

You may know him by his real name, but more than likely you just call out "Lestrade!" when you see him on film. Although Dennis Hoey has become forever associated with his role as Inspector Lestrade in the Universal Sherlock Holmes series, he was a character actor like no other; a competent actor who appeared in nearly 75 films with that burly mug of his that is instantly recognizable.

Samuel David Hyams was born in London in 1892 to Russian immigrants who operated a bed and breakfast in Brighton. While attending Brighton College, the young lad considered entering the teaching profession but war intervened and, while fighting overseas for the home island, he found out what jolly fun it was singing for his fellow soldiers. This led to Hyams deciding that becoming a musical performer might be a very entertaining business. Once back on British soil, he joined up with an acting company and made his first stage appearance in 1919 at London's Drury Lane Theatre. He landed a plumb part as Ali Ben Ali in the London production of The Desert Song which ran for over 400 performances and for the next decade exercised his dramatic skills while touring with Godfrey Tearle’s Shakespearean repertory company.

Early in his stage career, Hyams changed his name to Hoey, most likely to link his name with that of Iris Hoey, a very popular musical comedy star at the turn of the century. He crossed the Atlantic to appear in a few stage productions in New York, notably Katja ( 1926 ), before heading back to England to wed and to dip his toes in that refreshing new pond of opportunity - talking pictures.


Hoey had a number of juicy film parts during the early 1930s, including Baroud ( a Rex Ingram film ), the unforgettably titled Chu-Chin-Chow with Anna May Wong, The Good Companions starring Jessie Matthews, I Spy with Sally Eilers, and Brewster's Millions featuring Jack Buchanan. Hoey also performed in several Stanley Lupino ( Ida Lupino's father ) comedy films  before taking time off to return to the stage and star in light operas. 

In 1937, Hoey moved his family ( which included son, Michael ) to the states and for the next five years kept active in the theatre performing in Pygmalion ( as Colonel Pickering ), Jane Eyre ( which he toured with Katharine Hepburn ), and Virginia along with Nigel Bruce. When war broke out in Europe, Hoey packed up his family once again and headed west to the land of movie stars in the hopes of finding regular film work. Which he did. 

Within three years Hoey appeared in eleven films for 20th Century Fox, demonstrating his flexibility in roles ranging from lords, intelligence officers, and detectives. The 6'2" actor exuded an authoritative presence which made him perfect for these kind of roles. It was most likely his performance as Colonel Woodhue, head of the British secret service, in the spy comedy Cairo that led to Hoey being cast as Inspector Lastrade in Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon ( 1942 ). 

The series became so popular that Hoey was naturally called back to Universal studios, where he was under a non-exclusive contract, to revive his role in Sherlock Holmes Faces Death. He would go on to make four more Holmes films for the studio and was pigeon-holed in similar "inspector" roles in the horror classics Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and She-Wolf of London ( 1946 ).

Hoey was really marvelous as the affable Lestrade. He gave substance to a character that was barely sketched out by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and made him a favorite fixture of the series. He brought to the character a proper air of diplomacy in spite of his utter lack of efficiency and was truly a beloved bumbler. Hoey enjoyed portraying Lestrade and even wrote a script for a Sherlock Holmes installment, in which Holmes attempts to solve a mystery surrounding the famous ghost of the Drury Lane theatre. It is a shame this script never was produced, for it would have been a good addition to the series. 

Once back at 20th Century Fox he was able to portray a wide variety of characters in films throughout the mid-1940s. Some of the films he made during this period include National Velvet, A Thousand and One Nights, The Keys of the Kingdom, Kitty, The Crimson Key, Golden Earrings, and The Foxes of HarrowAnna and the King of Siam offered him the chance to play alongside his real-life friend, Rex Harrison. Here, he was cast as a nobleman but, unfortunately, most of his part wound up on the cutting room floor.

In the late 1940s, Hoey continued to stretch his acting muscles in minor roles in adventure and dramatic pictures such as If Winter Comes, Joan of Arc, The Wake of the Red Witch and The Secret Garden and also did a number of radio spots, including playing Lestrade alongside Rathbone and Bruce. 

By the early 1950s however, Hoey's career was on the wane and he turned his attention to the newest medium of wonder : television. Ironically, one of Hoey's last performances was that of Arthur Conan Doyle in an episode of Omnibus ( 1956 ). 

In his final years, Hoey remained in Tampa, Florida with his second wife, basking in the sun and enjoying retirement until his death in 1960. He was estranged from his son, Michael, who later went on to become a successful producer and director. 

One of our favorite annual events - the What a Character! blogathon - is taking place this week over at Aurora's Gin Joint. This is our small contribution to an event that celebrates all those wonderful character actors of the silver screen. Be sure to check out the roster of posts on all your favorites! 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

North West Frontier ( 1959 )

Flame Over India ( released in Britain as North West Frontier ) is a suspenseful epic about smuggling a boy prince out of India's northwestern province to safety in Kalapur after his father, the Rajah, is killed in a massive Islamic uprising. 

English army officer Captain Scott ( the marvelous Kenneth More ) is given last-minute orders to this effect and is left to use his own resources to bring the boy out in safety. Being a loyal soldier, Scott is willing to lay his life on the line before letting any harm come to the young prince and gets a few chances to prove his loyalty to the crown. Most of the English population of the area fled prior to the uprising and only the Governor ( Wilfred Hyde-White ), his wife ( Ursula Jeans ), the prince's American governess ( Lauren Bacall ), a Dutch/Indian news reporter ( Herbert Lom ) and a French gun dealer ( I.S. Johar ) remain, all of whom ask for Captain Scott's assistance in their flight for safety. 

Leaving by horse cannot be considered because of the numerous snipers hiding in the hills, and most of the trains have already left days ago ( filled to the brim and flowing over with Indians ), so unfortunately the only means of train transportation left at his disposal is a decrepit old steam locomotive - Victoria, the Empress of India. Gupta, the engineer of the locomotive has great faith in "his fine lady", and assures the Captain that Victoria will be suitable for the mission.

 "Alright, Victoria is old, I confess that. But she has experience, sahib. And when she has experience, what can go wrong?!" 

What can go wrong indeed! Our cast of characters venture forth on a 300-mile journey through rebel-held territory in the rickety old engine and to add to the danger, they find that an enemy agent is among them - one who is bent on purposely endangering the prince!!

What appealed to me most about this film the first time I saw it was its fine cast ( who can pass up a good Kenneth More film? ), its imperialism era setting and the wonderful plot. When the picture was released in the UK, More received top billing for his performance as the Captain. However, for the US release, he got bumped down to second billing in place of Lauren Bacall. 

At first, Bacall appears to be out of place as the governess, but her performance grows on you as the film progresses. She is excellent as usual and perfectly suited as the head-strong American woman who likes to speak her mind, and who slowly falls in love with the storybook correct Captain Scott. 

North West Frontier is a highly under-rated adventure film and this may be due to it rarely being aired on television. If it had a broader audience it would surely become a favorite with many. Its duel titles does not help matters ( the alternately spelled Northwest Frontier becomes a third title in the mess ).

Filmed in Technicolor on location in India and Spain, the movie plunges into the fray of danger and excitement from the start and although the "enemy" is pretty obvious to discover, Northwest Frontier is filled with many other suspenseful moments throughout its 129 minute run time. 

For those with that inner spirit of adventure, come aboard the Empress of India on a daring ( and dangerous ) journey through the Northwest Frontier and you can be sure you'll not to be disappointed! It's a Boys Own adventure come to glorious life in film. 

This post is our contribution to The British Empire in Film Blogathon being hosted by Phantom Empires and The Stalking Moon. Be sure to check out their sites for a jolly good list of imperial posts! 
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