August 2008

Have you dreamed of having your reviews and essays featured on our site? Have you fantasized about the enormous fame you’d have if only you could be a member of the Obscure Classics team?

Well, lucky for you, we’re recruiting! I’m currently looking for one or two people to add to the awesomely awesome team here.

Yes, in the past, we’ve been open to people just sending in reviews for us to post. But I’ve been trying to get the site a little more organized lately, so from now on, I’ll only be accepting posts from people on the team.

I’ve already signed up one new person from over at Rotten Tomatoes, and I’d like to sign on one or two others.

If you are selected to be a part of the team, your reviews and essays will be featured on the site for all to see. The “Reviews and Essays” section is going to be slightly redone. Anyone who has already written for us, but had less than 5 posts, will be listed under “Guest Writers” while the rest will be listed under “The Obscure Classics Team”.

There will be requirements for writing for us. Nothing crazy, of course. Just that you have to write at least one piece every two week. You may, of course, write more than that. You can write as much as you want. Just as long as you get one piece up every two weeks. And we, of course, understand that at times there will be conflicts due to illness, vacations, or even if you get extra busy at work or school. Just let us know.

You will have to use a full name. We won’t post under screen names. If you’re uncomfortable using your real name on your reviews, then feel free to make up a name. Just as long as it’s a full name.

If any of that is hard to understand, don’t worry about it. I’ll go deeper into our requirements once we’ve chosen a new team member.

So, here’s what you have to do to be chosen. Write one review, and one essay (it doesn’t matter what the essay is, just as long as it isn’t a review. A character analysis, an in depth look at a certain type of film, or a certain director… it doesn’t matter), and make sure they’re about obscure classics films.  If you aren’t sure whether the film you’ve chosen is obscure or not, you can drop me a line asking, so in case I decide it’s not, you won’t have written a whole review for nothing. I’d also like it if you sent in a list of your 10 favorite films of all time, as well as a list of you 10-20 favorite obscure classics films.

I’ll look over the reviews and essays, consult with the other writers, and make a choice. You have plenty of time to send it in, so don’t worry. You have until October 1st to apply.

Send all applications to

I really looks forward to reading everyone’s submissions. Every submission we receive will be posted on the site, and added to the Reviews and Essays section as a “Guest Writer” (unless you specify that you don’t want yours poster).


Year: 1940

Director: Wesley Ruggles

Cast: Jean Arthur, Fred MacMurray, Melvyn Douglas, Harry Davenport, Dorothy Peterson, Melville Cooper

Vicki (Arthur) discovers that her dead husband Bill (MacMurray) is not dead after all, but was stranded on an island for a year. This presents a problem since she’s married Bill’s best friend, Henry (Douglas). Vicki, after being neglected in favor of adventure or work, in both of her marriages, doesn’t feel the need to choose a husband too quickly, instead making the men grovel for her affection.

Too Many Husbands was released the same year as the similarly plotted My Favorite Wife, and both did well at the box office. However, the latter film really is the better film. Too Many Husbands has a very cute and entertaining plot, and I really liked that both men were portrayed as good guys and decent choices. However, the pacing is all over the place and, even though the film only runs for 81 minutes, about half way through the idea becomes repetitive and old. And this makes the movie feel like it’s going on forever. Add to that the fact that the film can’t seem to make up its mind. At first I liked that both men were good choices and it’s wasn’t obvious who she was going to choose, but soon it became apparent that it wasn’t obvious because the film had no idea. Even in the end, there’s no definitive answer.

I love Jean Arthur. She’s one of the greatest comedic actresses of all time. But this really isn’t one of my favorite performances from her. That does have a lot to do with the script, though. It seems that Vicki is supposed to come off as quirky and cute, but instead she comes off as irritating, self centered, and desperate. Her inability to choose a man goes from being amusing to being somewhat pathetic and very annoying pretty quickly.

The movie really belongs to the men. Both MacMurray and Douglas create really funny characters who are both decent men with their own, huge flaws. They would both be good choice. MacMurray is perhaps the funnier and more charismatic of the two, but Douglas really captures that fear of losing the woman he loves better than MacMurray. In the end, I kind of ended up hoping they’d both just give up Vicky to go off and be best friends again.

I’m a pretty big fan of Wesley Ruggles. He’s one of the most underrated directors if the 1930s and 1940s. He did a lot of his best work in dramas like Cimarron, Bolero, No Man of Her Own, and Somewhere I’ll Find You, but he’s shown more often that he’s great with comedy. Films like True Confession, Slightly Dangerous, The Gilded Lady, and You Belong to Me. But Too Many Husbands really lacks the creative and lovable comedic flair of his other films.

Year: 1932

Cast: Marie Dressler, Jean Hersholt, Myrna Loy, Richard Cromwell

Director: Clarence Brown

When their mother dies in childbirth, the Smith children turn to their nanny Emma (Dressler). As they grow up, Dressler loves them as though they were her own. She has a special bond with Ronnie (Cromwell), who never knew his mother, though Isabelle (Loy) is stuck up and insists on treating Emma as little more than a servant. As the children grow older, their father Frederick (Hersholt) and Emma being to feel lonely and end up marrying each other. On their honeymoon, Frederick dies, and leaves everything in his will to Emma so she can properly provide for the children. Isabelle refuses to believe her father would leave her nothing, and tries to prove that Emma killed her father.

Marie Dressler was definitely one of the more interesting stars of the 1930s. While she’d had some success in silent film, she had pretty much disappeared from the radar until Anna Christie in 1930. She won the Best Actress Oscar for Min and Bill, and was nominated again for Emma. While not at all the type of beautiful star so many people adored, Dressler was one of the top box office stars of her time. She was certainly one of the most talented and dynamic actresses. In Emma, she’s extremely sympathetic, and gives one hell of a performance. It’s hard to believe a woman would be able to love “her” children after the way Isabelle treats her, but there’s never a doubt that Dressler means every word she says when she refuses to allow the lawyers to talk about the kids the way the do, even if it means she’ll be found guilty of murder.

Loy is also interesting in this film. Before her breakout year of 1934, she was often cast as villainous characters, and that’s pretty much what she is here. She’s stuck up, self centered, selfish, and vindictive. And so completely easy to hate. She really does give a very good performance that’s completely against the type she would soon come to play.

The film does lose a bit of steam in the middle. While the murder trial is indeed interesting, I was much more enthralled by the relationship/romance between Emma and Frederick. There was a lot of genuine emotion and affection in this love story between two older people, and that made the first half of the films a lot more interesting than the second half. A romance like this is so rare to find in film, especially classic film. I really would have loved an entire film just about Emma and Frederick’s marriage.

Good news, Hitch fans (especially those of you who like some of his more obscure films)! MGM/Fox is releasing a whole bunch of his movies on DVD this year. Some of his better loved ones – Rebecca, Notorious, and Spellbound– which all have OOP Criterion releases, will received the re-release treatment, and lesser known ones – The Paradine Case, The Lodger, Sabotage, and Young and Innocent will also be released.

As far as I can tell, there isn’t much word yet on art or special features.

And, in related news, still waiting on definite word on the Borzage/Murnau set, concerning exactly what movies will be included, which features, and the cost.

I’ll let you know as soon as I hear. And if you hear anything, let me know!

Every Girl Should Be Married is definitely the least of the three films discussed in this series. While Three Loves Has Nancy and Tom, Dick, and Harry are cute, sweet, simple romantic comedies with unique, likable characters and unpredictable outcomes, Every Girl Should Be Married lacks… pretty much all those things. And there’s some creepiness thrown in as well. A lot of creepiness, actually.

Anabel (Betsy Drake) has a nice boyfriend back home, but meets the perfect man in Dr. Madison Brown (Cary Grant). She’s determined to marry him, but he shows little interest, so she invents a scheme to trap him. This scheme involves following him around, invading his personal life so she can learn every single thing about him, and basically being a lunatic. During this endeavor, she attracts the attentions of her boss, Roger Stanford (Franchot Tone), and she considers playing the two men off of each other.

If this movie was remade today, there’s no way it could be made as anything other than a psychological thriller. Really, I’m not sure how his movie was perceived back when it original released. Instead of coming of as quirky and cute, Anabel comes across as a clingy, desperate lunatic, and definitely on of my most hated film characters. She stalks Madison relentlessly, invades his privacy to learn every detail of his life, down to the magazines he reads. When he takes out another girl, she behaves like he’s cheating on her, even though she really barely notices her. It’s not cute. It’s creepy.

And Betsy Drake’s performance doesn’t really help. The actress has almost no charisma. Perhaps if a better actress had the role, it wouldn’t have been quite so damn creepy, but Drake is completely void of charisma.  The character she creates is like those girls you couldn’t stand in high school. The ones who’s life was dependent completely on the guy she liked, who was so overdramatic about that she’d cry in the bathroom anytime he ignored her, and acted like they were going steady if he so much as glanced at her. The girl who thought that psycho obsessive stalking somehow proved her love.

That’s actually the biggest problem with the movie, and it’s evident in the title. While Three Loves Has Nancy is really about how the men are dependent on Nancy, and Tom, Dick, and Harry is such a light movie that the idea of dependence is never really important, Every Girl Should Be Married, even with a female lead who’s supposed to seem strong, is incredibly insulting. Anabel’s life is completely incomplete and worthless without this man, despite the fact that she has a not-so-bad job and a wonderful best friend. All of it means nothing unless she can marry a doctor. There are films where, even though I have problems with their politics, I can’t fault because they’re products of their times. But watch so many movies from this time and before, where women were becoming wonderfully self sufficient and independent, Every Girl Should Be Married is just an insulting step backward.

Franchot Tone plays the other guy yet again, and is by far the best part of the movie. His character is the cad with a heart of gold. He’s clearly after one thing, but he also has a genuine admiration and affection for Anabel (god knows why). He’s the most likable, and the most interesting thing in the movie.

But there’s never any question of who she’s going to end up with. Her hometown boyfriend is basically forgotten, the affectionate cad is used only to help Anabel’s sill scheme, and the film sends the horrible message that stalking a man like a crazy person will win you Cary Grant’s heart.

Just a reminder that there are a crapload of good movies on Tuesday, which is Babs Stanwyck’s day. Instead of filling the day with well worn (but great) classics like Double Indemnity and The Lady Eve, they’re showing a whole lot of really obscure stuff, pre-code especially. Some of her bests, too. Don’t miss….

Illicit (1931) at 7:00 am
Ten Cents a Dance (1931) at 8:30 am
Night Nurse (1931) at 10:00 am
Forbidden (1932) at 11:15 am
Shopworn (1932) at 12:45 pm
Ever In My Heart (1933) at 2:00 pm
Baby Face (1933) at 3:15 pm
The Bride Walks Out (1936) at 4:45 pm
You Belong to Me (1941) at 6:15 pm (this one isn’t ‘great’, but you’d be stupid to ignore a Fonda/Stanwyck pairing)
The Locked Door (1929) at 8:00 pm
The File on Thelma Jordan (1950) at 9:30 pm
Witness to Murder (1954) at 11:15 pm
Crime of Passion (1957) at 12:45 pm

That’s one hell of a lineup. I just wish they were showing The Mad Miss Manton and So Big as well.

Year: 1944

Director: Charles Vidor

Starring: Rita Hayworth, Gene Kelly, Phil Silvers, Lee Bowman, Leslie Brookes, Eve Arden, Otto Kruger

Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly may be the most perfectly matched film couple of all time. Not the greatest, mind you, but definitely among the best matched. They were both impossibly good looking people, they both had charismatic acting chops, and both really could dance their pants off (though hardly anybody remembers that about Hayworth). They’re the best thing about Cover Girl. And that’s saying a lot. Because Cover Girl is a damn good movie.

Rusty (Hayworth) dances at her boyfriend Danny’s (Kelly) club, but she wants to get famous. So she goes to an open call for John Coudair’s (Kruger) magazine, where they’re looking for a model for the “Golden Wedding” issue. Rusty lands the gig and becomes famous overnight, much to the chagrin of Danny, who thinks she should achieve fame using her considerable singing and dancing talents.

It sounds like a simple enough story. And if that was all the movie was it would still be a really good musical romance. But the film weaves in flashback’s to Coudair’s past, where he fell in love with Rusty showgirl grandmother, who really loved the poor piano player from the club where she worked. So Cover Girl works beyond just the musical comedy level. Unlike so many films of this genre, it creates a layered, detail history to the characters and their stories that gives it a very full, meaningful feeling. You could take out the musical numbers (though they’re so good you really shouldn’t) and you’d still have a damn good movie.

And like I said, those musical number are all kinds of awesome. The fun songs combined with the skilled dancing of Kelly and Hayworth may not be as memorable as something out of an Astaire/Rogers picture, but they’re still a load of fun. “Make Way For Tomorrow”, “Poor John”, “A Sure Thing”, and, especially, “Long Ago and Far Away” are all winners. With musical numbers set in two different time periods, the song writers creat to distinct styles (and “Poor John” is actually a song written in 1906).

And, of course, there’s Hayworth and Kelly, who should have made a lot more films together. They’re chemistry is off the charts. It shows not only in their romantic dialog scenes together, but also their dances. By the time they’re singing “Long Ago and Far Away” (pretty much the most romantic song of all time) to each other, they’ve already cemented themselves as one of the great couples of cinema.

Year: 1950

Director: Rudolph Mate

Cast: William Holden, Nancy Olson, Barry Fitzgerald, Jan Sterling

“Union Station,” an early police procedural, holds your interest throughout due to a tight story and a nice performance by William Holden. Made in 1950, and starring Holden and Nancy Olsen, who starred together the same year in Billy Wilder’s classic “Sunset Boulevard.” The cast also includes Barry Fitzgerald as Inspector Donnelly, a crotchety Irish cop, a role that Fitzgerald has made a career out of. Also in the cast are Lyle Bettger as the head kidnapper and Jan Sterling in a small role as his girlfriend.

Union Station police officer Lt. William Calhoun is told by a young woman, Joyce Willecombe (Olson) that she believes two men who were on her train may criminals planning to do something. She saw one of them carrying a gun. It turns out that the daughter of her boss, a blind girl, has been kidnapped, and the kidnappers have picked Union Station for the exchange. Calhoun (Holden) and Inspector Donnelly (Fitzgerald) spend the rest of the film battling the clock to identify and capture the kidnappers before they kill the girl.

The film was directed by Rudolph Mate who also made “D.O.A.” that same year. Mate’s career was mediocre though he made a couple of decent Westerns, “Branded” and “The Violent Men,” both with Glenn Ford. “Union Station” is a tough police thriller, especially if you are considering the year it was made. Halfway, through the film the police capture one of the kidnappers and in an attempt to get him to talk; he is smacked around, threaten with physical harm, bullied and almost thrown on to the tracks of an oncoming train. These cops would have been in good company with Harry Callahan. Notable in the cast is Lyle Bettger who plays Joe Beacom, a borderline psycho, who is the brains behind the kidnapping scheme. The final scenes in the belly of the Station are a visual treat. The script, though a bit unbelievable due to too many coincidences, still keeps you going. Written by Sydney Boehm whose credits include “Side Street,” “Violent Saturday,” “Rouge Cop” and Fritz Lang’s “The Big Heat.”

1950 was a breakout year for Holden who had been in films since the late 1930’s but really came into his own with two Billy Wilder pictures, the previously mentioned “Sunset Boulevard” and his Academy Award winning performance in Wilder’s “Stalag 17.” Nancy Olson was also nominated for her role in “Sunset Boulevard” and would go on to make four films with Holden as her leading man. While Olson has continued acting into the late 1990’s her career took second place during her marriage to lyricist Alan Jay Learner in the 1950’s and never recovered.

I always have had a special affection for train movies. Films like this, “Union Depot,” “The 39 Steps,” “Strangers on a Train,” “Night Train to Munich” have always fascinated me, as do movies with a newspaper theme. “Union Station” has never been released on video so you need to keep a lookout for it on TCM.

While Three Loves Has Nancy is a fun comedy with deeper character development underneath, Tom, Dick, and Harry leans more toward the light romantic comedy side of things. While it does present some interesting and unique characters, they don’t quite have the issues and depth that the earlier film possessed. Still, Tom, Dick, and Harry is a unique romantic comedy that takes chances with its storytelling techniques.

Ginger Rogers is Janie, a sweet, but simple girl (her parents complain that she becomes more and more adolescent every day) who dreams of love and marriage. She’s dating the stable and ambitious Tom (George Murphy), who’s just received a promotion and is seeking another one. He asks her to marry him, and she seriously considers it, until she meets Harry (Burgess Meredith). She mistakes him for a wealthy man, but continues seeing him even when she discovers he’s not, because there’s just something about the loveable, but short tempered deadbeat, that she likes. Then she meets the wealthy and powerful Dick (Alan Marshal) and thinks that all her dreams of love and money can come true. All three vie for her affections, while she tries to decide which one to choose.

What Tom, Dick, and Harry lacks in depth, it makes up for in creative storytelling. Janie’s subconscious rebels against the thought of marrying each man through surreal, and sometime creepy dreams.  Each suitor is given a fair amount of time to build a convincing romance with Janie, which actually makes the ending unpredictable. All of the men have something appealing about them. They all seem like suitable matches for Janie, and she does have genuine feelings for them all. So, even in the last scene, as she’s deciding once and for all, we really don’t know who she’ll choose. And the characters of the men are so well done that they’re very different, so there is the sense that no matter who she chooses, she’s giving up something else good.

While one of the men wasn’t present for most of Three Loves Has Nancy, all three men are very present in Tom, Dick, and Harry, making the love-rectangle much more present and much more complicated. Once all three men discover each other, there’s a huge amount of competition, from simple competitive wooing, to physical fighting. There’s one scene where all three men begin to undress to jump into bed with Janie (certainly a racy scene for the time).

Ginger Rogers was best at playing street wise, sassy gals, but Janie doesn’t quite have the intellect of Rogers’ other characters. This is probably the most “real” of all the characters she played. While Rogers played a lot of normal, middle to lower class characters, she always held and intelligence and strength that was exceptional. Janie doesn’t really have that. She’s a sweet girl who is more wrapped up in love and hearts and flowers than anything else. It’s not one of Rogers’ most stellar performances, but it is a very good one. She gives Janie a lot of heart, which I don’t think would have been there with any other actress in the role. It could have been easy for Janie to be extremely irritating, but Rogers approaches the role with subtlety.

Tom, Dick, and Harry isn’t particularly deep, but for a romantic comedy of the early 1940s, it’s extremely well crafted and creative.

There seems to be some confusion about how to listen to the podcast. Here are the big ones…

  1. You can’t listen to it unless you have iTunes.
  2. You have to download it to your hard drive.
  3. You have to have some other kind of software, other than iTunes, to download it from the site

It’s not as complicated as all that. We are on iTunes, so if you do have it, it’s probably easiest to just subscribe through there. But if you don’t, you don’t need any kind of software and you don’t have to download anything. All you have to do is click the direct download button and it will play directly from the site.

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