Saturday, March 18, 2023

77 Sunset Strip Airing All Weekend!

Every weekend Decades TV ( Channel 35 if you live in the Cleveland area ) runs a marathon of a particular TV show....this weekend it happens to be the classic private-eye series 77 Sunset Strip. It is well worth tuning in to watch at least one episode because the series is rarely shown on television and has still not received a DVD release. 

77 Sunset Strip stars Efram Zimbalist Jr. and Roger Smith as two private detectives who operated an agency at 77 Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. Aiding them in many of their cases is Ed "Kookie" Byrnes, a wanna-be PI who started as a valet parking attendant at Dino's, the club next to their office. 

The series ran for six seasons ( 1958-1964 ) and featured a number of entertaining one-hour cases. Decades TV began the marathon early this morning and it will continue to run until 5am EST on Monday. On Sunday, beginning at 10am EST the five-part episode titled "5" will be airing. This one has Efram Zimbalist tracking down an art thief and boasts an excellent cast including Peter Lorre, Herbert Marshall, Diane McBain, Burgess Meredith, William Shatner, Ed Wynn - and his son Keenan, Wally Cox, and Walter Slezak. 

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Classic St. Patrick's Day Films

It be St. Paddy's Day on the morrow and if ye be a classic film fan, ye'll be wanting to sit back and relax and watch a grand film set on the Emerald Isle. But what film would you be wanting to watch? Faith, man can watch The Quiet Man no more than twenty times before knowing the script word for word! This is where this wee list of classic films may be of service to ye. Not all of the films are about Irish lore and leprechauns but they have enough atmosphere to get you into the spirit of the "wearing of the green".

Aye, enough now with the babbling and on with the listing! 

1. Darby O'Gill and the Little People ( 1959 )

Can any film top Darby for St. Patrick's Day? This Walt Disney classic has everything - leprechauns, banshees, pots of gold, a pretty Irish girl....and even Sean Connery! Albert Sharpe gives an excellent performance as the wily old codger who manages to trick King Brian, the king of the leprechauns, into granting him three wishes. Charles Stinson of the Los Angeles Times sums up the film well: "Being a Disney product, it is as technically perfect a job as can be had; the Technicolor, the camera work, the special effects, the Irish music and all are a rich feast for anyone's eye and ear." The special effects are indeed wonderful and sixty years later are just as impressive as when the film was first released. 

2. The Luck of the Irish ( 1948 )

Honestly, this one nearly topped the list of great films to watch on St. Patrick's Day. It is a classic all-around...a wonderful cast, a whimsical story, and excellent direction by Henry Koster. Tyrone Power plays a freelance writer named Steven Fitzgerald who befriends a leprechaun ( Cecil Kellaway ) while he is stranded in a village in Ireland. He manages to capture him and demand his gold but, not wanting to take the old man's life savings, returns the pot to him. The leprechaun is so grateful he follows Fitzgerald back to New York City and helps him realize his heart's desire. 


3. The Quiet Man ( 1952 )

Who has not seen The Quiet Man? Nevertheless, if you happen to be one of those rare folk who avoids John Wayne films, then this is the film you should watch to change your opinion of The Duke. It has a wonderful script, gorgeous Technicolor footage of Ireland, and a cast of classic Irish actors. Wayne plays retired American boxer Sean Thorton, who returns to his hometown village in Ireland and begins a courtship with the spirited lass Mary Kate ( Maureen O'Hara ) through the aid of the local matchmaker Michaleen ( Barry Fitzgerald ). When her brother refuses to accept Sean as his brother-in-law, the entire village waits for Sean to assert himself and win Mary Kate as his bride. 

4. Little Nellie Kelly ( 1940 )

Mix together Judy Garland, George Murphy, a little romance, and some lovely Irish folk tunes and what have ye? A marvelous movie, that's what. If you are a Judy Garland fan, you may be sad to see her character die within the first 20 minutes of the film....but she pops again shortly after, this time in the form of the daughter of Nellie Kelly. Nellie is the apple of her father's eye and when she elopes with Jerry Kelly ( George Murphy ) behind his back, he fills his heart with spite against the young man. Jerry takes his new bride and his father-in-law ( Charles Winniger ) to America, gets a job as a policeman, and faithfully supports both his daughter Nellie and his father-in-law. When Little Nellie finds a beau of her own she decides it is about time that her grandfather and father made peace. 

5. Top O' the Morning ( 1949 )

This is another seldom-seen gem from the 1940s. Bing Crosby plays an insurance investigator sent to IReland to catch the criminal behind the recent theft of the Blarney Stone. The village constaple ( Barry Fitzgerald ) is not too pleased to have an American poking his nose into "official policing busyness" but his daughter ( Ann Blyth ) takes a shine to him. Top O' the Morning is one of those films that you may not think much of the first time you watch it but it grows on you with subsequent viewings. The sets are well-made and evoke an Irish air and the music is lovely. Ann Blyth sings "You're in Love with Someone" and Bing Crosby croons some newly-written but old-sounding Irish tunes. 


6. Brigadoon ( 1954 )

What has Brigadoon to do with St. Patrick's Day...or even Ireland? Absolutely nothing! Nevertheless, watching the fantasy realm of Brigadoon appear before my eyes from the Scottish midst, always puts me in an Irish mood. Perhaps it's the dancing...or perhaps it is the presence of Gene Kelly, that famous Irish-Canadian. Whatever it be, if you want to dance a jig, put Brigadoon on your tele. Gene Kelly and Van Johnson play two Americans who get lost in the Scottish highlands and discover the village of Brigadoon, where everyone is dressed in "funny clothing". They soon learn that the village is a mystical village and appears only once every 100 years. This certainly dampens the spirit of Tommy ( Kelly ) because he has fallen in love with a young woman ( Cyd Charisse ) from Brigadoon. 

7. The Secret of Boyne Castle ( 1969 )

Now, this is a rarity indeed! In our house, we watch it every March just prior to St. Patrick's Day, but even a hardcore Disney fan may not be familiar with the title. Several years before Kurt Russell took on the role of Dexter Riley in a series of college-themed comedies for the Walt Disney studios, he played this Hardy Boys-type character named Rich Evans. Rich and his pal Sean ( Patrick Dawson ) are at a boarding school in Ireland when a fatally wounded man gives Rich a dying message...."Boyne Castle, the hand iron, tell Tom he will find the papers there.". Rich and Sean are quickly embroiled in a spy chase leading them throughout the Irish countryside to the final showdown at Boyne Castle itself. This made-for-television film is great fun to watch. It is filled with non-stop chasing and some lovely location footage of Ireland in the 1960s. 


8. The Fighting Prince of Donegal ( 1966 )

Yet another Irish-themed film from Walt Disney Studios, this time about the legendary Irish prince Hugh O'Donnell and his fight against the British troops in the 16th century. Peter McEnery stars as the swashbuckling youth with Susan Hampshire as his lady love. 

9. Yankee Doodle Dandy ( 1942 )

What more famous Irish-American be there but George M. Cohen? Warner Brothers certainly thought he merited a biopic and, after investing 1.5 million dollars in the production, released Yankee Doodle Dandy in 1942. James Cagney played the dandy who captured the hearts of thousands on Broadway throughout the early 1900s. In real life, Mr. Cohen wanted Fred Astaire to play him onscreen, but honestly, Astaire could never have delivered Cagney's Academy Award winning performance. 

10. The Irish in Us ( 1935 )

If you want to see a typical Irish family in action, then The Irish in Us is the film to watch. Mary Gordon plays Ms. O'Hara, the mother of three grown men, Danny ( James Cagney ), Pat ( Pat O'Brien ), and Michael ( Frank McHugh ). Pat is in love with his boss's daughter but is surprised when his brother Danny starts romancing his girl( Olivia de Havilland)! Prior to starting the film, one can easily guess that James Cagney will win the girl, but even so, it is fun to watch him spar with his brother in order to do so. 

11. My Wild Irish Rose ( 1947 )

If you enjoyed George M. Cohen's life story then why not take a gander at this biopic on Chauncey Olcott, the 19th-century singer-songwriter? Dennis Morgan gives a wonderful tune-filled performance of the popular Irishman and Arlene Dahl looks pretty in Technicolor ( incidently, this was her screen debut ). 

12. Finian's Rainbow ( 1968 )

Before Francis Ford Coppola filmed The Godfather, he made this whimsical Irish musical that starred Fred Astaire as Finian McLonergan, an Irishman who stole a pot of gold from the leprechaun Og ( Tommy Steele ). Og comes to Rainbow Valley, where Finian and his daughter ( Petula Clark ) reside, hoping to find his gold before he turns into a mortal man. Finian's Rainbow is not the best of films but it does indeed have some wonderful songs ( by Burton Lane ) and fancy dancing by Fred Astaire and Tommy Steele. 


Other films and television programs: 

The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady ( 1950 ), a semi-sequel to Sweet Rosie O'Grady ( 1943 ) with June Haver in the title role; The Wee Men ( 1947 ), a delightful cartoon about the leprechauns from Noveltoons; The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold ( 1981 ), a little-known gem from Rankin-Bass; Irish Eyes are Smiling ( 1944 ), another biopic, this time on Ernest R. Ball. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Film Albums: Maureen O'Hara Sings Her Favorite Irish Songs

Now is a wonderful time to enjoy some classic Irish songs, what with St. Patrick's Day peeking just around the corner....and if you want a gem of an album to enjoy, check out this classic from 1961: Maureen O'Hara Sings Her Favorite Irish Songs


Maureen O'Hara had a wonderful high soprano voice but only recorded two albums during her career, this one here and "Love Letters from Maureen O'Hara" released in 1958. Jasmine Records released both albums in one compact disc compliation. 

The liner notes on the back of the album are penned by Ms. O'Hara herself ( 'tis herself! ) who shares that the songs on the album are her favorite Irish songs, most of which she heard in her childhood sung by her parents, relatives and neighbors. Many of these tunes will be unfamiliar to Americans - even Irish-Americans (!) - except the popular Danny Boy and Come Back to Erin but there is a nice variety of songs on the album and, as Maureen says herself "There's something for every one of you - and I hope everything for some of you."

Track Listing:

Side One: 

A Kerry Cow

Give Him to Me

A Rich Man Died

Wee Hughie

Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye

There Was an Old Woman

Danny Boy

There Was an Old Man

Side Two:

He Moved Through the Fair

Which of Them Will I Marry

Do You Remember that Night, Love

It's True that the Women are Worse Than the Men

The Next Market Day

Nora Lee: I Once Loved a Boy

I'm Going to Be Married on Sunday

Come Back to Erin

Top Music Picks: Danny Boy, Which of Them Will I Marry, Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye

Click here to listen to Maureen O'Hara Sings Her Favorite Irish Songs on Youtube...and click here to see a lovely clip of Ms. O'Hara performing "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" on The Jimmy Dean Show

Friday, March 10, 2023

Beauty for Sale ( 1933 )

"I got a living to earn for two and I can't do it in Kentucky. You got to take your spoon where the soup is." - Letty

"Well, the soup's hot in New York, kid. You're likely to get burned." - Carol

Letty ( Madge Evans ) is a small-town girl who heads to New York City to work at Madame Sonia Barton's beauty salon. While there, she falls in love with Sherwood ( Otto Kruger ), the husband of one of her clients ( Alice Brady ). He does not want to divorce his wife and so Letty must decide whether to leave him or have a backstairs relationship with him for the rest of her life. 

MGM's Beauty for Sale was one of many variations of the oft-used three-working-girls plot first popularized in Sally, Irene, and Mary in 1925. It was still fresh in the 1930s and by altering the setting MGM was able to reuse it successfully throughout the decade in other films, none quite as good as this one. 

The three beauty parlor girls are played by Madge Evans, Una Merkel, and Florine McKinney, all of whom are low on lover's luck. Carol ( Merkel ) had a sour experience with real love that left her bitter and so she sets her eyes on catching a rich sugar daddy instead...which she does. Jane ( McKinney ) has fallen in love with Madame Sonia's son ( Phillips Holmes ) but is quickly abandoned when he learns she is pregnant. 

Letty judges her relationship with Sherwood in the light of both of her friend's experiences and decides to part ways with him. She reluctantly returns to her hometown beau ( Eddie Nugent ) but quickly regrets this decision. 

"I didn't make the world the way it is, but I gotta live in it."

A 1933 review from Variety magazine pegged Beauty of Sale perfectly: "Pulp magazine fiction made for subway-riding stenographers...romantic hoke skillfully dressed up." 

It may be hoke, but mighty entertaining hoke it is! Beauty for Sale has a well-shaken blend of drama and comedy. It begins with sentimentality, reaches a dramatic climax, and then takes a sudden and brief dip into screwball comedy. This may sound like a potent mixture for an MGM film, yet the final result is quite pleasing. The film was the forerunner of the lush - and much more dramatic - melodramas of the 1950s ( e.g. Three Coins in a Fountain, The Best of Everything ), and like those films, even when you know the ending you can sit through them over and over again and still enjoy it. 

"It's a pity mother didn't drown you as a pup!" - Carol

Eve Green and Zelda Sear's script, based on the Faith Baldwin novel "Beauty", is positively sparkling with wit. Una Merkel is given the best wisecracks, Alice Brady the most humorous lines, and Madge Evans has some of the sauciest remarks in the script. The direction, by Richard Boleslavsky ( Theodora Goes Wild ), is fast-paced and the cinematography is lovely. James Wong Howe used some clever angle shots and an abundance of soft-focus lenses. Madge Evans' close-ups are particularly beautiful. 

Evans was one of the most irresistible actresses to ever come out of Hollywood. She was also one of only a handful of child stars to have made a successful transition into being a leading lady of the screen. Her pre-code films were her best and Beauty for Sale ranks as one of her most popular films. 

In 1933, Evans and Merkel were the most in-demand players on MGM's roster with Evans making 16 films between 1933 and 34. She was often teamed with Robert Montgomery but Madge seems more enthralled by Otto Kruger than she ever was with Mr. Montgomery. They have wonderful on-screen chemistry together which is especially evident in one scene early in their relationship. Letty comes out of a restaurant during a thunderstorm and runs under a stoop only to bump into Sherwood. "There are only two things I am afraid of," she tells him, "thunderstorms and caterpillars!" Then a clap of thunder sends her flying into his arms. 

Kruger is quite effective as the unassuming lover even though Edmund Lowe or Warren William could have made an equally charming Sherwood. The cast is a who's-who of recognizable 1930s film characters. Alice Brady plays one of her usual dithery society dames, Charley Grapewin has a great part as Carol's benevolent boyfriend, Hedda Hopper plays the lofty Madame Sonia, and the great May Robson has a wonderful part as the mother of Letty's hometown boyfriend, Bill. 

Beauty for Sale is available on Warner Archive's DVD and is shown periodically on television. If this film catches your fancy then be sure to check out Danny Reid's fabulous review at Pre-Code.com. He has loads of screenshots to enjoy, plus some neat gifs ( some of which we stole above ). 

Thursday, March 9, 2023

From the Archives: Mary, Mary ( 1963 )

In this 1963 publicity photo, Debbie Reynolds is seen modeling one of the many beautiful dresses designed by William Travilla for the film Mary, Mary. Travilla should have released a special line of clothing for department stores with each dress copying a style seen in his most recent films. They would have been big sellers at Sears! 

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store : http://stores.ebay.com/Silverbanks-Pictures

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Rewind Review: Me and the Colonel ( 1958 )

"In life, there are always two possibilities...."

It is quite common to find a film that begins terrifically, loses a bit of its appeal midway through and then flounders at the end. But it is rare to find a film that begins slowly and then gets better and better until it reaches its climax. This is because screenwriters desire to "hook" their audience within ten minutes through a compelling script. Me and the Colonel is one of those rare films that fall into the latter category of having a slow beginning. Yet, one cannot say that it does not feature a compelling script. Quite the contrary; Me and the Colonel is wonderful entertainment.

Danny Kaye stars as Jacobowsky, a Polish Jew who flees from town to town throughout France trying to avoid the Nazis - as this takes place at the beginning of WWII. He is a clever and extremely resourceful man, a practical survivor. He uses people and situations to help provide him with the tools and opportunities to make his escapes. It is during his attempt to flee Paris that he meets Colonel Prokoszny ( Curt Jurgens ), a proud and stubborn Polish officer, and his aide Szabuniewicz ( Akim Tamiroff ). 


Jacobowsky is reluctant to use the colonel in his escape plan since he is unapologetically anti-semitic and extremely unhelpful. However, as the colonel is Jacobowsky's only chance, he uses him to drive the car that will take them to southern France and to safety in Spain. Their flight from the Nazis is immediately complicated when the colonel "goes the wrong direction" and heads north into German-occupied territory to rescue his mistress Suzanne ( Nicole Maurey ). The colonel has a penchant for getting them into trouble and it is left to Jacobowsky to continually use his inherent wiles to rescue them from one scrape after another along their journey.  It is through Jacobowsky and the colonel's ordeal together that they manage to form a bond of friendship that transcends their differences. 
"You have one of the finest minds of the 12th-century"

Danny Kaye was a marvelous actor. His skill at drama was often hidden behind the humorous masks of the characters he played. Me and the Colonel leans more towards drama than comedy and Kaye does not play Jacobosky for laughs. The publicity department at Columbia Studios attempted to warn Danny Kaye fans who were expecting zany comedy and tongue twisters that "Kaye pulls a switch". It was an uncharacteristic role which he played with impressive ease....and won a Golden Globe for his endeavor.

Jacobowsky has such a beautiful soul and it is so appealing to watch him unfold the various layers of his character throughout the film. Suzanne recognizes what a rare individual Jacobowsky is and is lovingly drawn to him. He - and the audience - are left to wonder whether she feels a romantic attachment to him or simply honors him for his noble character. 

I have always been amazed at how well Danny Kaye was able to play the romantic. Perhaps it is because we expect him to be the clown that his moments of displaying genuine warmth are all the more touching. Me and the Colonel features one of the sweetest love scenes he ever did. Tucked away in a French palace during a thunderstorm, he confesses his love to Suzanne and the predicament he feels he is in due to his loyalty to the Colonel. Not revealing what she feels, she simply asks him if he would like to dance and there, on the beautiful marble floor of the palace, they waltz. 
                           
"More and more I like this Jacobowsky"

Me and the Colonel was nominated for Best Motion Picture at the 1959 Golden Globes and at the Mar del Plata Film Festival. It was based on a play by Franz Werfel ( "The Song of Bernadette" ) and S.N Behrman ( "The Pirate" ) that played for 417 performances on Broadway in 1944 with Louis Calhern, Annabella, Oskar Karlweis and Edward Bromberg as the four intrepid escapees. 

It is a light-hearted but thought-provoking drama generously sprinkled with humorous dialogue. Touches of espionage and the serious undertone of its setting make it reminiscent of Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not To Be ( 1942 ) and Howard Hawks' I Was a Male War Bride ( 1949 ). 
                           
Curt Jurgens, who almost always gives a top-notch performance, overdid it in this role and his performance of Prokoszny borders on buffoonery. Yet, he redeems himself at the end of the film and we catch a glimpse of a more tender-natured colonel. Prokoszny is stiff-necked and ego-maniacal but nonetheless endearing. Jacobowsky is willing to give up his life for this man and understandably so. He is courageous and fiercely loyal. The colonel's aide shows equal loyalty to him, as does Suzanne, even though she knows very well that he had affairs with women in every city he stopped at.

"In the cathedral of my heart, a candle will always burn for you!"

The lovely French actress, Nicole Maurey, is always a delight to watch. She is perhaps best known for appearing opposite Bing Crosby in the post-war drama Little Boy Lost ( 1953 ) and for her part in The Day of the Triffids ( 1963 ) where she was once again fleeing France for the Spanish border. 

Me and the Colonel features beautiful location filming throughout France and a great supporting cast which includes Alexander Scourby, Fran├žoise Rosay and the marvelous Martita Hunt in a brief part as a nun who aids our heroes in their escape. 


This post ( originally posted in 2019 ) is our contribution to The Danny Kaye Blogathon being hosted by Poppity Talks Classic Films. Danny Kaye is known for his comedic work but this film showcases his skill as a dramatic actor as well and so it is well worth spotlighting in a celebration of Danny Kaye's life. We hope you enjoyed it! To read more reviews of Danny Kaye films be sure to check out the blogathon here

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Road to Utopia ( 1945 )

Bob Hope and Bing Crosby are on the road once again in the 1945 comedy classic Road to Utopia, this time heading out to Alaska during the Klondike gold rush at the turn of the century. Hope and Crosby play a couple of down-in-their-luck vaudevillians named Chester and Duke who find a map to a gold mine, a map stolen by Sperry and McGurk, two murdering thugs who are hot on the twosome's trail to retrieve the map. En route to Alaska, Chester and Duke lose their money and stow away on a steamer. After they are caught, they assume the identities of Sperry and McGurk in order to disembark unobserved. This is when the film really gets fun watching the cowardly Chester and mild-mannered Duke swagger and snarl as they masquerade as tough guys. 

"I'll have a lemonade," Chester barks at the bartender and then, realizing he was supposed to be Sperry, adds "....in a dirty glass!"

Also on the trail of the map to the gold mine is the curvaceous Sal ( Dorothy Lamour ), whose father was murdered for the map. Ace Larson ( Douglas Dumbrille ) and his gal Kate ( Hillary Brooke ) claim they will help her retrieve it but they too are after it for themselves.  We never do get to see this elusive gold mine but the fun of the chase for the map makes up the best parts of the picture.
                               

Road to Utopia was the fourth film in the Road Pictures series and it ranks as one of their most hilarious. Crosby and Hope are clearly having a ball and their verbal sparring is furious and fun. Their dialogue is delivered so off the cuff that one wonders how much of it was written in the script and how much was impromptu. The words that were written on paper earned screenwriters Melvin Frank and Norman Panama an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. 

"Am I dead?" - Chester

"I can't tell, you always look that way." - Duke

Like many of the Road pictures, the "fourth wall" is often broken with Bob Hope making sly glances and remarks to the audience. This one also features humorous breaks from Robert Benchley who comments on the silliness of the script. 

Silliness it indeed is, but this is what makes the film so amusing. Hope and Crosby deliver their lines and then add some personal comments and a little playful bickering before going back to playing their parts. Plus, der Bingel takes time to sing a few songs including the memorable "Welcome to My Dreams". Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen penned the songs for the film and Dorothy Lamour's sizzling rendition of "Personality" hit #1 on the music charts that year. 

Hope and Crosby would return to the sweltering climates of the other Road pictures in Road to Rio ( 1947 ) but for wintertime fun you can't beat this Alaskan outing with the twosome. The film is available on DVD ( in multiple editions ) and via streaming.