Sunday, April 30, 2023

Check it Out! - Sally Ann Howes and Howard Keel on "The Bell Telephone Hour" ( 1960 )

Check out this wonderful clip from a rare color episode of The Bell Telephone Hour ( 1960 ) featuring Sally Ann Howes and Howard Keel singing "Tonight" from the Broadway musical West Side Story. Two beautiful actors with beautiful voices. 

Sunday, April 23, 2023

A Foreign Affair ( 1948 )

During World War II, the American, British, and Russian forces bombed Berlin until it was a heap of concrete rubble. After the war, the US Army decided to leave some troops behind to help clean up the mess. This included capturing Nazi members who may have eluded them earlier and also aiding the Germans in getting back on their feet. Both tasks could be rather demoralizing - especially in such a battered environment as post-war Berlin. In order to see just how well the "boys" overseas were coping, Congress decided to send a committee to check up on them...or so the story goes in Billy Wilder's 1948 comedy A Foreign Affair. 

This committee, comprised of five men and one woman, is given a 3-day tour of Berlin in order to make their report to Washington. But as Congresswoman Ms. Frost ( Jean Arthur ) points out, this is a carefully crafted tour designed so that the members see only what the US Army wants them to see. 

Ms. Frost chooses to remove her blinders and what she sees surprises her! American soldiers are engaging in the black market, openly fraternizing with the frauleins, and clearly enjoying themselves. Just one chocolate bar can buy a guy a lot of favors in Berlin. 

Nightclub singer Erika von Schlütow ( Marlene Dietrich ) certainly knows how to use a soldier to her best advantage. She remembers what it was like in Berlin right after the war. 

"We've all become animals with exactly one instinct left - self-preservation....What do you think it was like to be a woman in this town when the Russians first swept in? A living hell. And then I found a man, and through that man, a roof, and a job, and food, and I'm not going to lose him."

That man is Captain Johnny Pringle ( John Lund ), an officer at the very camp that the committee is visiting. He is well aware that Erika is a hot potato, a woman who once had affiliations with Nazi party members, but he pulls a few official strings to shield her because he is enthralled by his "gorgeous booby trap". 

Ms. Frost discovers the curvaceous performer one night at the Lorelei club and overhears that she is being protected by an American officer, so she enlists the aid of fellow Iowan Captain Pringle to help her ferret out the name of this man, little realizing that it is Pringle himself that is Ms. von Schlütow's sugar daddy.

A Foreign Affair is one of director Billy Wilder's lesser-known films but it nevertheless bears his trademark style, especially in the cynical but humorous script, penned by Wilder, Charles Brackett, and Richard L. Breen. The cinematography is beautiful and the music, by Friedrich Hollander, perfectly captures the feel of post-war Germany, but what makes the film really work is the performances from its three principal actors: Jean Arthur, John Lund, and Marlene Dietrich. 

Growing up, I was familiar with Jean Arthur only from her role as Marian in the classic western Shane ( 1953 ). Then, in my teen years, I discovered all of her marvelous films from the 1930s and realized just how popular an actress she was. This decade was really the peak of her career, and she starred in such comedy classics as Mr. Deeds Goes to Town ( 1936 ), You Can't Take it With You ( 1938 ) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington ( 1939 ). She was Columbia Studios' top actress up until her retirement in the mid-1940s. Wilder enticed her away from college to make this picture. 

Jean gives a wonderful performance here as the stern Ms.Frost, playing her icy cool from her entrance and then peeling away layers of her personality as the film progresses. Frost is a fastidious, independent, prudish, Iowa-born-and-bred, no-nonsense kind of woman, who - living up to her namesake - is particularly cold to men after having been used by a man several years back. When Captain Pringle realizes that she is gunning down his liebling Erika - and himself - he knows he will receive no sympathy or mercy from her. So, he undertakes a really courageous task - that of wooing the unwooable woman. And boy is he in for a surprise! After a few kisses, Ms. Frost suddenly becomes "Pheobe" and before he knows it, he's polishing his shoes and whistling "Shine on Harvest Moon".

Marlene Dietrich is also alluring as Erika. Wilder had her in mind for the part as he was writing the script and there really was no other actress who could have played her part as well. She is best in the nightclub sequences, entertaining the soldiers as she so often did in real life during the war. 

John Lund also shines as Captain Pringle. Few actors could play comedy as well as Lund could, plus he was a believable "ladies' man". Cary Grant could have tackled this role with equal ease but Grant does not seem like the kind of man who would be having an affair with the former mistress of a Nazi officer. Also in the cast is that old pro, character actor Millard Mitchell as Pringle's commanding officer. 

A Foreign Affair is available on Blu-Ray DVD and via streaming through the Criterion Channel.

This post is our contribution to the Shades of Shane Blogathon being hosted by Rachel at Hamlette's Soliloquy. Be sure to visit her blog to check out other film reviews featuring actors who starred in the classic western Shane.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Edge of Eternity ( 1959 )

Savage suspense spans the granite gorge! 

So heralds the poster for Edge of Eternity, a taut mystery thriller set in the midst of a decaying mining town in Arizona in the late 1950s. 

The opening scene plays out like an episode of Perry Mason: An elderly businessman parks his car at the very edge of the Grand Canyon. He brings out a pair of binoculars and, just as he is beginning to look through them at something below, a large burly younger man jumps from behind the rocks and attacks him. The two wrestle, but it is the younger man who topples off the cliff to his death. 

Later, Deputy Sheriff Les Martin ( Cornel Wilde ) receives a phone call from Eli, the watchman of a closed-down gold mine. The businessman is in his office, sputtering something incoherently. Les is on his way to the mine when he witnesses a speeding driver and takes off in pursuit of it. The driver is Janice Kendon ( Victoria Shaw ), the daughter of the mine's owner. He writes her a ticket, but in the time he spent doing so, the businessman is murdered! This begins a strange series of killings, all committed in very different ways. The community leaders want action and Les and his boss, Sheriff Edwards ( Edgar Buchanan ), find themselves under increasing pressure to solve the crimes.

Edge of Eternity is not a well-known title, even among Cornel Wilde fans, yet it is an engrossing little thriller and deserves to be more frequently aired on television. The story seems like a plot from a 1970s made-for-TV mystery, but thankfully it was given a much better treatment here by director Don Siegel ( Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Dirty Harry ). 

This Columbia Pictures release was filmed in Eastmancolor in Arizona with the vast panoramic landscape of the Grand Canyon providing a parched yet picturesque backdrop to Knut Swenson and Richard Collins' noir-style screenplay, which keeps you guessing to the very end who the killer may be. 

Red herrings abound in the form of suspicious glances and double-entendre dialogue from supposedly trustworthy characters; the number one suspects being Janice's brother Bob Kendon ( Rian Garrick ) and Sheriff Edwards himself, admirably played by Edgar Buchanan. 

Buchanan played in a wide array of films in a career that spanned nearly 35 years. Most of his characters were lovable rascals with a streak of mischief in them, a role epitomized in Uncle Joe in the long-running Petticoat Junction series. He was also a familiar face in Westerns, one of the most famous being Shane ( 1953 ), where he played homesteader Fred Lewis. Yet, Buchanan was much more capable an actor than his Uncle Joe character would have you believe. 

I never paid much attention to his acting ability until I saw this film. Sheriff Edwards appears to be such a likable guy. Les is indebted to him for giving him a second chance after a botched murder investigation wrecked his career as a policeman. He not only trusts him but sees Edwards as a father figure, a man he can lean on for support and advice, both personally and professionally. Edwards is just an all-around likable fellow. But gosh, he says so many little things that get you wondering whether Les' trust in him is not misplaced. Credit for his character being so ambiguous could go to the screenwriters but I believe Buchanan's portrayal of Sheriff Edwards is what really makes this work. 

Cornel Wilde also gives a good performance. For years he starred in swashbucklers and other period films, always playing a hero with clean morals. In Edge of Eternity, he plays a knight-in-shining-armor as well, but one of the laid-back and modest variety, garbed in the uniform of a kindly deputy. Les takes a fancy to the rich and reckless Janice and, not surprisingly, he quickly wins her heart. In the climactic finale, he risks his life for her fighting with the killer in a cable car suspended high atop the Grand Canyon. This nail-biting scene is what Edge of Eternity is best known for and it is an excellent cap-off to a fine mystery thriller. 

Also in the cast are Alexander Lockwood as Janice's father, Mickey Shaughnessy as a bartender, Tom Fadden, and Jack Elam in a brief role. 

Edge of Eternity is available on DVD as part of Columbia Classic's Movies on Demand series and is also available in a stunningly restored Blu-Ray edition from Twilight Time. 

This review is our contribution to the Shades of Shane Blogathon being hosted by Rachel at Hamlette's Soliloquy. Be sure to visit her blog to check out other film reviews featuring actors who starred in the classic western Shane

Thursday, April 20, 2023

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game


This is a wonderful's a dapper-looking man driving an unknown model car in who-knows-what film. Well, actually, we hope you know what film it is because, after all, that's what this game is all about!

As always, if you are not familiar with the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!


Congratulations to The Tactful Typist for correctly identifying this scene from the screwball comedy "Midnight" ( 1939 ) starring Don Ameche, Claudette Colbert, John Barrymore, and Mary Astor. In this scene, one of the French taxi cab drivers recognized Colbert as the woman that Don Ameche was hunting for and he's got a look of satisfaction on his face as he speeds toward her car. 

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Easy to Love ( 1953 )

Julie Hallerton ( Esther Williams ) is the star attraction of the Cypress Gardens water show. She was groomed for success by her boss Ray ( Van Johnson ) ever since he discovered her at the age of 15, but Julie is tired of being exploited and working from morning till night with no time to herself. One day, she announces to Ray that she will be quitting to get married. This sends him into a panic ( he certainly doesn't want to lose his star attraction! ) so he decides to give her a vacation and invites her to New York with him. Julie has long been secretly in love with Ray, so she leaps at the chance...only to discover that he once again uses her and the trip to New York as a publicity opportunity. Luckily, she meets the dashing nightclub singer Barry Gordon ( Tony Martin ) in New York who not only shows her a night on the town but arouses Ray's jealous streak. 

Esther Williams teamed up with Van Johnson in four films, three of which I personally think were her best films: Thrill of a Romance ( 1945 ), The Duchess of Idaho ( 1950 ), and Easy to Love. Easy to Love was the last of these four, made in 1953, and it is a delightful romantic comedy - quite easy to love. 

Most of Esther Williams' films are light-hearted, amusing, and very colorful. Easy to Love is especially colorful. It was shot on location in Winter Garden, Florida at the beautiful Cypress Gardens and the area looked doubly lush and green in eye-popping Technicolor. The finale, filmed by helicopter, really showcases the talented waterskiers from Cypress Gardens. Esther Williams also got to don the famous Southern belle dresses with hoop skirts so often seen at Cypress Gardens. Tourism to the park surely must have gotten a boost after the film premiered.

In addition to the lovely locales, Easy to Love features beautiful costumes by Helen Rose ( William's NY evening gown is especially easy on the eyes ), an easy-to-follow script, and an easy-going cast of pros, along with some familiar character actors. 

Van Johnson is always good at comedy and, although his demeanor here is much more gruff than usual, it is still apparent why Julie wants to marry him so fervently. After all, he's Van! 

Tony Martin was never much of a leading man but he always makes a wonderful "other man". Here, he nearly lures Julie away from Ray with his affability, good looks, and crooning tenor voice. All of the songs in Easy to Love are performed by Tony Martin and include the delightful "Did'ya Ever?", "That's What a Rainy Day is For" ( penned by Lennie Hayton and George Stoll ) and the titular "Easy to Love" written by Cole Porter. 

Also in the cast is King Donovan in an Allen Jenkins-style part, Edna Skinner ( Mr. Ed ) as Julie's roommate, John Bromfield as a Cypress Gardens beefcake with his eyes on Julie, and Carroll Baker in her film debut. 

Easy to Love is available on Volume 2 of the TCM Spotlight Esther Williams DVD collection. 

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Film Albums: Richard Hayman Conducts the Great Motion Picture Themes of Victor Young

When I was hunting for the next album to feature in this Film Album series, I came across Richard Hayman's Victor Young album on Youtube and immediately thought "An old favorite!". I gave it a quick listen and sure enough, all of the songs were instantly remembered....but lo! when I looked for the album among my LPs it could not be found. Now I'm wondering whether I donated this gem to Goodwill by mistake.
Anyway, whether you have a copy of it in your record player or not, you can listen to it on Youtube and via the Internet Archive ( the links are below ) and enjoy some lovely orchestral arrangements of Victor Young film classics from the 1950s. 

The best part is the songs are not only arranged and conducted by Richard Hayman but feature his amazing harmonica solos. To be quite frank, I was sure it was a melodica that he was playing, but after a quick search online I found Richard Hayman is a harmonica virtuoso. Love Letters and Golden Earrings especially highlight his talented skill. 

Track Listing

Side One:

Alone at Last from Something to Live For

Wintertime of Love

Around the World in 80 Days

Golden Earrings

Love Letters

Stella by Starlight - Theme from The Uninvited

Side Two:

When I Fall in Love from Senior Prom

A Love Like This from For Whom the Bells Toll

Moonlight Serenade

My Foolish Heart

Song of Delilah - Love Theme from Samson and Delilah

The Seven Hills of Rome

Top Music Picks: Alone at Last, Golden Earrings, Love Letters, Stella by Starlight

Click here to listen to the album on Youtube. 
Click here to listen to the album via The Internet Archive.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

The Robe ( 1953 ) - A Behind-the-Scenes Snapshot


Tonight, the Movies! channel will be airing The Robe at 8pm EST, so we couldn't resist posting this behind-the-scenes photo taken during the crucifixion scene of The Robe. This scene should have been filmed out-of-doors but perhaps the director thought they could control the lighting better within the studio, especially since this was the most pivotal scene in the movie. 

Darryl F. Zanuck offered Richard Burton a contract with 20th Century Fox Studios during the making of the film, but Burton disliked The Robe so much that he turned it down. Nevertheless, the studio had such confidence that it would be a box-office success that they put the sequel Demetrius and the Gladiators in production before The Robe was even released in theaters.