Archive | July, 2013

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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Looking Backward: Ah, Wilderness (1935)

7 Jul

ah-wildernessI saw a very well done production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night here in Louisville last fall, and it seems to have lingered to color my viewing of Ah, Wilderness. The thought of Spring Byington sneaking off to shoot up between scenes is funnier to me than the actual comedy presented. And on further consideration, I think Lionel Barrymore would’ve made a solid Tyrone. Though I’m also fascinated by the comedy-drunkenness of Uncle Sid when considered in that light, even when it gets dealt with. (That aspect of the story plays eventually as a public service announcement.)

“Gee, you’re a sight for sore eyes – and you don’t know how sore your eyes can get looking at Waterbury.” I’ve been through Waterbury. Slowly. It’s pretty, in its way, but I have yet to figure out its traffic. There’s always a tie-up. Is that because people are always fleeing or because there are so many coming in? No man can say. But it’s become a household joke at this point. A “Waterbury” is as good a word for “a seemingly reasonless delay” as any seven-syllable mouthful the Germans ever gave us.

Movies like this always make me do Period Film Head Math: “So in 1935, the setting of this movie was roughly equivalent to a movie made now and set in 1984.” I’m always intrigued by what we have nostalgia for, especially in cases like O’Neill’s where youth (especially around the family manse) was by all reports reasonably awful.

The light wackiness with which the protagonist’s youthful-but-timely politics are handled was also telling. I say this as someone who found himself just last night “indoctrinating” his eight-year-old niece in an expurgated and condensed version of the history of the Labor Movement mostly so she would get more of the jokes in Modern Times. Perhaps that’s a special case.

But in all it’s a sweet little slice of idealized turn-of-the-century New England and an excuse for me to watch Wallace Beery and Lionel Barrymore do what they do, which plenty for me.

Looking Forward: Truffaut night–July 5 on TCM

5 Jul

The_400_Blows_AI am criminally undereducated where the films of Truffaut are concerned. I am also about to spend July being foolishly busy thanks to the great men that were Sir William Schwenk Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan (and more accurately the people paying me to direct one of their works). I don’t guarantee that I’ll have something on each of these in a timely fashion, but Truffaut was French, so I can’t imagine he’d want me to hurry…

Here’s the lineup:

8:00 p.m. – The 400 Blows (1959)

9:45 p.m. – Antoine & Colette (1962)

10:30 p.m. – Stolen Kisses (1969)

12:15 a.m. – Bed and Board (1970)

2:00 a.m. – Love on the Run (1979)

4:00 a.m. – The Green Room (or The Vanishing Fiancee) (1978)

Looking Forward: Sh! The Octopus (1937)

4 Jul

480_sh-the-octopusSh! The Octopus is obviously something I’m going to love and, equally obviously, probably terrible. The fact that Hugh Herbert and Allen Jenkins have top billing. That’s sufficient information for me to make my previous judgment. It’s on TCM July 5 at 6:15 a.m. Let’s enjoy it, shall we?

Looking Backward: And So They Were Married (1936)

4 Jul

and-so-they-were-married-1Moral lessons learned from And So They Were Married:

not enough parents use brandy and violence as child-rearing tactics these days;

children are, at their core, rotten, vicious and selfish;

women are capricious and vindictive;

men are capricious and vindictive;

Donald Meek cannot be trusted with anything;

there was a time not so long ago when going on vacation with your child meant leaving them pretty much anywhere in a crowded version of The Shining’s Overlook Hotel;

the sweet young bride Rick stuck his neck out for enough to at least hand her a roulette-based nest egg started out with a mean streak and must’ve been through a lot to become so self-sacrificing when at ten she wouldn’t even share cake;

the police, individually and collectively, are utter buffoons capable of being tricked by third-graders;

in the days before cell phones no one could ever be reached anywhere ever.

If this were a one-hundred-forty character affair the hashtag would be followed by the unspaced and depunctuated phrase “I Love Screwball!”

Looking Backward: The Devil’s Disciple (1959)

4 Jul

Burt, Kirk, and LarryThe Devil’s Disciple is, to begin with, a terrific example of a cinematic adaptation of a stage play that maintains the spirit of the script that inspires it but still avoids having people stand in a single room talking to each other all the time. If anything, it goes to show that Billy Wilder could’ve written one hell of a screenplay for a John Ford Western. But enough of my daydreaming…

The original play has all of three locations (and the usual heaping helping of novelistic Shavian stage directions/descriptions); the screenplay manages to flesh out the play’s basic events and motivations without being enslaved by a pretend proscenium – something that should be easy with Shaw, considering how expensive it would be to stage most Shaw strictly according to his instructions. (That said, it made me long to be enslaved by a proscenium again myself to grapple with some Shaw, something I can’t seem to talk anyone else into.)

These are simultaneously perfect roles for Lancaster and Douglas and yet good stretches for them as well. There’s not a lot of, you know, acting going on in that This Is Important sense – as I said, it plays out like one of those good morality-based 1950s Westerns, not like a turn-of-the-century British stage “melodrama,” as Shaw labeled it. Olivier could sleepwalk brilliantly through roles like this, or at least had the sprezzatura to make that appear to be the case.

There was apparently a day when this was the vanity project an actor did with his own production company: a Shaw adaptation about the American Revolution co-starring Laurence Olivier and directed by Guy Hamilton, who went on to do four James Bond films. Good times.

Looking Forward: Ah, Wilderness (1935)

3 Jul

Ah Wilderness 3So, it’s Shaw in the morning and O’Neill at night for me – I’ve never seen the 1935 film of O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness (though oddly I know both musical versions, Summer Holiday and Take Me Along). That will be remedied on July 4 around 10:45 p.m. thanks to the TCM Independence Day lineup. Quietly, I hope for rain.

No more homework. I’ll see you here sometime after it airs.