Archive | July, 2013

Looking Backward: The Gazebo (1959) & Carl Reiner.

10 Jul

Gazebo_3While his noir work is pitch-perfect, I admit that I’ve never been sold on Glenn Ford in comedy. I think something like The Gazebo might’ve dated less with a) more of a comedy whiz-bang in the lead, someone who can comically unravel instead of just being twitchy and b) a more stylish directorial hand – Alfred Hitchcock is, from the phone anyway, a character in the film. Some visuals that conjure up suspense films could’ve made strength’s of The Gazebo’s implausibilities.


As a fan, and with half a century of hindsight, I suppose it’s useless to wonder whether Carl Reiner, who’s right there in the room, could’ve done either/both.

I should probably note here that Carl Reiner has been a personal hero of sorts since my first youthful viewing of Ten From Your Show of Shows, particularly the “This is Your Story” sketch, in which he’s the straight man among a crowd of madcaps. I assume the genetic coding that makes me a Straight Man was at least partially responsible.

“This is Your Story”, Al Dunsey”


For those who don’t use performance terminology regularly, I’m not referring to sexuality – though this is maybe a good place to mention that The Gazebo features what may be, historically speaking, the most gratuitous of all Debbie Reynolds production numbers, and the crew-cut guys in the TRON outfits are a prime reason the gay community was absolutely justified in the bloodless coup that gave it leadership of the musical theater – but to the Straight, the Feed, the Abbot to Costello, the Alice-if-you’re-Ralph, the Ralph-if-you’re-Norton. Or, to me, the Carl Reiner, since he was the first person who made me notice how this worked.

This is an athletic skill and a Zen mastery. The guys who dunk get the endorsement deals; frequently ignored is the guy who makes sure he gets the ball. In comedy there are people with an anything-for-a-laugh energy and while an audience thinks that’s what they want, Comics are potentially exhausting. The Straight Man is sometimes the balance pulling the routine back to center, sometimes the force of rigidity giving the Comic something to bounce off of, sometimes the blank night sky between the stars that allows you to notice that the stars are even there. Most comedy pairings toss this back and forth – it’s not a pure thing and hasn’t been since at least Burns and Allen – but generally you can still tell who’s the Authority and who’s the Nut.

BioPhotoCarlReinerIt wasn’t long after “This is Your Story” that I first saw The Dick Van Dyke Show, and not terribly long after that that I bought a 2000-Year-Old Man LP (at a record show at a Holiday Inn – it was 2013, the one with Reiner and Brooks sitting like two monoliths (or one stereolith) on the cover.) Sometime just before that I saw him interviewed by Steve Allen alongside Milton Berle and a young Billy Crystal circa 1983/4 (I still have the videotape).  I never looked back. I even went bald in his honor. Or such is my reasoning.

So what I’m saying is: any opportunity to watch Carl Reiner work, even in a minor supporting role like this, is an opportunity I’ll take…though all it does is make me want to retroactively increase his involvement. Unrealistic, perhaps, but it keeps me off the streets.


DVR Alert: The Spanish Main (1945)

9 Jul

The Spanish Main is a seafaring, swashbuckling classic being shown late late Tuesday, July 9 (at 4:15 a.m.) as part of TCM’s monthlong Paul Henreid celebration. And I celebrate him. Really, I do.

But I celebrate Maureen O’Hara more.


For reasons that I do not feel the need to explain.

Also, Pirates. Which usually means Walter Slezak. And in this case Binnie Barnes as the one and only Anne Bonney!

This one is really a lot of fun – by the 1950s, the swashbucklers were, with a few exceptions, starting to fray at the cuffs, but at this point, they were still pretty lush. And I don’t just mean because of Maureen O’Hara. There are ships and costumes and battles. But, yes, also because of Maureen O’Hara.

For example, compare this one to 1953’s The Siren of Baghdad next week (Tuesday, July 16 at 10:15 p.m.). With the exception of Henreid’s charm and of course, OF COURSE, Hans Conreid as Ben Ali, it’s a little shady. Still fun, yes, but not nearly as much. Maybe if you replaced the dancing slave girls with Maureen o’Hara.

Looking Forward: This Week

9 Jul

I’m busily rehearsing this month, and when I’ll get to watch all of these will be dictated by the kindness of Gilbert & Sullivan, but these are some noteworthy unseen-by-me’s (with accompanying Reasons Why) coming up on TCM in these next few days:

gazeboThe Gazebo (1960) – A Glenn Ford/Debbie Reynolds domestic murder comedy. Carl Reiner’s in it. Sold. Airs Tuesday, July 9 at 6:15 p.m.

bardelys_the_magnificentBardelys the Magnificent (1926)/ The Show (1927) – Parts of a daylong salute to John Gilbert on Wednesday, July 10. The former is a Sabatini adaptation (airs at 6:30 a.m.), the latter a sideshow story (airs at 8:15 a.m.). Check and check.

trade-windsTrade Winds (1938) Frederic March, Joan Bennett & Ralph Bellamy in another mystery comedy in which Bellamy will, I’ll wager, not get the girl. Airs Wednesday, July 10 at 9:30 p.m.

shootthepianoplayer2Another Francois Truffaut Friday Night Spotlight on July 12,starting at 8:00 p.m. Though I’m still looking for time to watch all of last week’s.

stmartinsSt. Martin’s Lane (1938 aka London After Dark) stars Charles Laughton and Vivien Leigh as London street buskers. Almost too easy. Of course I want to see that. Airs Saturday, July 13 at 6:00 a.m.

Hired-WifeHired Wife (1940) – Rosalind Russell marries Brian Aherne for business reasons; Robert Benchley looks on. Duh. Airs Saturday, July 13 at 10:30 p.m.

7yearsAnd finally there’s Sunday night, July 14. The “Seven Up” lineup begins at 8:00 p.m. and is full of goodness (including The Magnificent Seven (Bill Hader’s Essentials Jr.), Seven Angry Men (Raymond Massey perfectly cast as John Brown), Buster’s classic Seven Chances, and Seven Samurai, but my particular interest is in the Max Linder silent Seven Years Bad Luck, which airs at midnight.

That should just about cover me. Come mid-August, my eyes are going to be wiped out from playing catch-up. But in a happy way.

Gidget (1959) & Beach Day on TCM

7 Jul

(A different Gidget movie will air on TCM on the first three Sundays in July at noon, starting with Gidget on July 7; also, the entire programming block from 6:30 a.m. through 8:00 p.m. on Monday, July 8 is beach crazy.)

Where the Boys Are HotelMy mother loves these movies. Some of it is generation-appropriate nostalgia. Some of it is what seems to be an inborn love of absolute fluff in her entertainment tastes – she’s going to read this and try to come up with some defense, and I’ll stop fighting it before she wears me down, but she knows I’m right.

I love them, too, but for very different reasons I’m not sure if I can articulate.

I have a fond memory of Mom’s indignance (I think she was ironing) at the gleeful reactions my sister and I were having to Where The Boys Are on our umpteenth viewing of it. We were laughing at the Wrong Parts, mostly the more obvious morality play parts (“Uh-oh – she’s enjoying herself as a sexual being. That means something terrible will happen to her”). And I’ve still gone out of my way to watch this movie more times that even I find plausible.

Gidget (just the first one – Gidget Goes Hawaiian and Gidget Goes to Rome don’t really do it for me, with the exception of Personal Hero Carl Reiner’s work in the former) is much the same to me – I understand its Oh, The Innocence value, but there’s so much deep time capsule value in there.

My mother and I disagree more strongly on the Frankie & Annette’s which, surprisingly, she doesn’t care for. I love them. Bikini Beach (the beginning) and Beach Blanket Bingo are…well, let’s talk about Harvey Lembeck, who’s making fun of a youth culture from fifteen or so years before, sort of (?), and unsuccessfully at that, both in the sense of missing what’s lampoonable and committing the more grievous crime of somehow never ever once being funny while doing it. It’s an amazing perfect record, and I kid you not I Can. Not. Look. Away. And that’s the least of what’s happening in there. Magic.

As to the rest of Monday’s beach day lineup, they’re more fun in a lump like this than they might be individually. Catalina Caper, familiar to MST3K lovers, makes its own charisma-free magic, as does It’s a Bikini World (which I’ve only seen once years ago; I’m going to have to look at that again), Palm Springs Weekend is just unwatchable, and For Those Who Think Young is unknown to me except as a vintage Pepsi slogan (apparently they bankrolled this movie) and a Mad Men episode. I hope it rains Monday.

Maybe someday if you’re really good I’ll explain the beach-movie-concept Tempest my wife and I came up with. It works, it’s terrific, and we only need a little money to make it happen…

Where the Boys Are 03

Quickie: The Devil Doll (1936)

7 Jul

Look, if you’ve never seen Tod Browning’s The Devil Doll (airing on TCM Sunday, July 7 at 9:30 p.m.), I have a few choice phrases for you:


Lionel Barrymore in old-lady drag. For most of the movie;


Raphaela Ottiano’s line about making them “smaallll;”

devildoll1Lionel Barrymore in old-lady drag. For most of the movie;

devildoll3Fascinating shrunken-people effects (part of the evening’s programming theme).

Do it. You owe it to yourself. The Devil Doll.

Looking Backward: Sh! The Octopus (1937)

7 Jul


Sh! The Octopus is reputed to be one of the worst films of all time. It isn’t. It’s an absolute mess, but it seems at least to have low expectations, which makes it a far less disgraceful mess than, say, The Lone Ranger.

There was, we must remember, a day before YouTube, before television, when these little nuggets came out week by week and only needed to Do No Harm. Impressive that of all the celluloid lost or destroyed over the years, this has survived. But there’s a charm to all the nonsense that, put in the context of the Marxes and Ritzes and Howards working regularly at the time, isn’t as crazy as it may seem. Everyone involved seems to take pleasure in this kookery they’ve been paid to indulge in. (Plus, there’s that cool scene with the old lady and her “transformation.” Nicely done.)

My only regret at spending an hour with this lovely little wreck is that I wasn’t tipsier. I don’t think anyone in the cast would be insulted by that…

Don’t make me hit you with my ukulele, Animated GIF

7 Jul

I’ve had days like this…

Movies Silently


We’ve all had days like this so we can all sympathize with Richard Barthelmess. I’d hit more people with my ukulele if I didn’t happen to love my ukulele.

This is the only (intentionally) funny scene in The Love Flower. Cherish it.

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