September 2008

Lot’s of good stuff on TCM in October for you guys to watch. For one, it’s Carole Lombard month (to celebrate her 100th birthday. Look for a little celebration here in Oct. 6). They’ll also be celebrating RKO’s 80th anniversary.

Oct. 1
6:00 am – Street Girl (1929)
7:30 am – Rio Rita (1929)
9:15 am – Seven Keys to Baldpate (1929)
10:30 am – Dixiana (1931)
12:14 pm – Girl Crazy (1932)
1:30 pm – Bird of Paradise (1932)
3:00 pm – The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
4:15 pm – The Animal Kingdom (1932)
5:45 pm – Double Harness (1933)
7:00 pm – Crossfire (1933)
8:00 pm – Cimmaron (1931)
10:15 pm – The Lost Squadron (1932)
11:45 pm – What Price Hollywood? (1932)
3:00 am – Our Betters (1933)

Oct 2
2:15 pm Number 17 (1932)
1:00 am Brute Force (1947)

Oct 3
3:00 pm – Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)
4:45 pm – Force of Evil (1948)
5:15 pm – The File on Thelma Jordan (1950)
12:30 am – Champion (1949)

Oct 6
9:45 pm – Hands Across the Table (1935)
12:45 am – Lady By Choice (1934)
3:45 am – Love Crazy (1940)

Oct 8
6:00 am – Rafter Romance (1932)
7:15 am – One Man’s Journey (1933)
8:00 am – Flying Down to Rio (1933)
10:15 am – Stingaree (1934)
2:45 pm – Roberta (1935)
11:30 pm – The Lost Squadron (1934)

Oct 9
6:00 am – The Informer (1935)
6:45 am – Jewel Robbery(1932)
10:45 am – Double Wedding (1937)

Oct 10
10:00 pm – Light in the Piazza (1962)

Oct 13
6:00 am – Men Call It Love (1931)
7:15 am – Forbidden (1932)
10:15 am – Prestige (1932)
11:30 am – The Circus Queen Murder(1933)
10:00 pm – No Man of Her Own (1932)
1:00 am – Swing High, Swing Low (1937)

Oct 15
9:45 am – Vivacious Lady (1937)
11:30 am – Carefree (1938)
2:30 am – A Man to Remember (1938)
10:00 pm – The Mad Miss Manton (1938)
1:30 am – Five Came Back (1939)
3:00 am – Bachelor Mother(1939)

Oct 16
8:00 pm – The Scarlet Pimpernel (1935)

Oct 19
6:00 am – Algiers (1938)
8:00 pm – Roberta (1935)

Oct 20
6:00 am – Kongo (1932)
8:00 pm – The Eagle and the Hawk (1933)
9:15 pm – Brief Moment (1932)
10:30 pm – Virtue (1932)
11:45 pm – No More Orchids (1932)
1:00 am – The Racketeer (1929)

Oct 21
9:45 pm – The Public Enemy (1931)
11:15 pm – The Amazing Doctor Clitterhouse (1938)
12:45 am – Invisible Stripes (1938)
2:15 am – Larceny Inc (1942)
There’s also a new documentary about the golden age of the gangster film at 8pm

Oct 22
8:00 am – Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941)
2:30 pm – None But the Lonely Heart (1944)
3:00 am – I Walked With a Zombie (1943)

Oct 23
7:00 am – Eyes In the Night (1942)

Oct 26
12:00 am – The Black Bird (1926)
1:30 am – The Unknown (1927)

Oct 27
10:00 am – First Lady (1937)
6:00 pm – Paris When It Sizzles(1964)
10:00 pm – Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941)
1:45 am – In Name Only (1939)
3:30 am – They All Kissed the Bride (1942)
5:00 am – Street of Women (1932)

Oct 28
12:15pm – Boeing Boeing (1965)

Oct 29
9:30 am – Cornered (1946)

Oct 30
6:15 am – Mad Love (1935)
9:00 am- I Walked With a Zombie (1943)

Oct 31
11:45 am – Mark of the Vampire (1935)
2:15 pm – White Zombie (1932)


One of the last remaining Hollywood legends has left us.

Paul Newman passed away yesterday after a battle with lung cancer. He was 83. It’s truly a sad day for film fans everywhere.

Amazingly, after over 50 years in film, Newman never lost that classic movie star glow. His presense on the screen was undeniable, whether he was 21 years old, playing a boxer in Somebody Up There Likes Me, or 77 years old, playing the againg mentor/enemy to Tom Hanks’ gangster in Road to Perdition. He personified the legacy of classic Hollywood.

In the 1950s, he was part of a new breed of actors, men who dared to their naturalistic style to Hollywood, who weren’t afraid of turning away from refined, pretty boy rolesin favor of rough, complicated characters. And Newman was one of the bravest of all, not shying away from the really harsh stuff, like the latent homosexuality of his role in 1958’s Cat On a Hot Tin Roof.  His characters were raw, real, and showed emotion that the generation that came before him hadn’t.

And he was a shining example off-screen as well. While some of his contemporaries were immersed in scandal, or allowed their personal demons to destroy their lives and careers, Newman led a life of generosity. He was married to his wife, Joanne Woodward for 50 years, living a quiet life out of the spotlight. He was also a humanitarian, always mindful of those who weren’t fortunate to have all the things he did. The proceeds from the food business he began all went to charity, and he was the founder of several groups for terminally ill children.

And he will, of course, always be remembered for his films. He will forever be the embodiment of the rebellious anti-hero of the 1960s. His films and images will live on forever. I know I’ll never be able to think of “some place like Bolivia” without thinking of the great Paul Newman.

When something like this happens, you want kind of want to say something like, “Let’s not remember him in death. Let’s remember him in his youth. When he was young, untouched, and rebellious. Let Cat On a Hot Tin Roof be the way we remember him”. But that’s just not fair with Paul Newman. Because he didn’t just get old and decide to quit. He kept going. And somehow, he managed to stay just as incredible, cool, awesome, rebellious, charming, funny, and entertaining as he was in those early film. He was just as cool at 80 as he was at 25. And that deserves to be remembered. He will always be that carelessly sexy, beautiful blue eyed man who made who made smoking a cigarette look like a kiss, who made a slouch seem like a battle stance, and who made bad boys have heart. But he’ll also always be the man who wasn’t afraid to age, who wasn’t afraid to take on different kinds of roles and change his image as the years went on. He’ll always just be Paul Newman. One of the coolest guys ever.

This has already been a really tough year on Hollywood, with the loss of legends like Richard Widmark and Anita Page, and the tragic and unexpected death of Heath Ledger. You would think that maybe with so much death this year it would start to get easier, but it doesn’t. And especially not when it’s Paul Newman. When it’s someone like this, someone who is a LIVING legend, who has been alive and active in film throughout your whole life, but was also around before then, during the golden age… even with the knowledge that they’re getting older and they will die soon, it’s almost impossible to think about what the film world will be like without them. Especially someone as important as Paul Newman. His absence will be felt for a very long time.

A few sites (including, usually pretty reliable) have reported overnight that Paul Newman has died. I can’t find any news sources confirming the story yet. I’ll update this post as information becomes available.

This is definitely a sad day.

Big, gigantic age difference between an actor and his leading lady in classic films has never been something that eyelashes were batted at. Everyone looks at pairings like Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits or William Powell and Myrna Loy in The Thin Man movie and knows that there’s an age gap. Hell, Humphrey Bogart starred with Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not when she was 19 and he was pushing 50, and then they fell in love and got married. It happens in modern film, too, but you do get a lot more people pointing out the May/December nature of romances in films now than you do with films from back in the day. Of course the actresses were frequently younger than their leading men. In classic Hollywood, actors were allowed to age and still play the leading man roles they were taking when they were in their 20s. But in most cases, once an actress passed 35 she was considered too old. So Clark Gable was allowed to play leading man for about 30 years. But instead of having Joan Crawford at his side for all those decades, it was a revolving door of young actresses.

But again, nobody really takes too much notice of this. Because, though young compared to their love interest, these actresses are still adults. They’re still women.

Well…… in most cases.

And in some cases….. you have two of the more famous actresses of their day who were pretty much still kids when they started playing romantic interests to older men.

Loretta Young hit Hollywood in 1917 when she was just four years old. She spent the next five years appearing in “extra” roles. She returned to the screen in 1927, a more mature 14. The next year she got her first starring role in Laugh, Clown, Laugh, playing the love interest to 45 year old Lon Chaney. She was 15.

Of course, it being a Lon Chaney film, the sad but heroic clown does not win the woman he loves. He instead selflessly sacrifices himself so she can be with the younger man she really loves. That younger man was Nils Asther. And he was 31.

Laugh, Clown, Laugh helped to catapult Young into stardom, and the teenager became an instant leading lady. She took on several leading roles the next year. The studio was smart though, and paired the now 16 year old young with a 19 year old Dougls Fairbanks, Jr. in more than one film. However, in 1930 she was back in a May/December situation. In The Truth About Youth, 17 year old Young was paired with Conrad Tearle, who was 35 years her senior. She was also paired with Grant Withers in The Second Floor Mystery. He was 11 years older than Young. And in this case, life imitated art. Young and Withers eloped after filming ended. Of course, the marriage didn’t last and Young, a strict catholic, had it annulled.

Young was one of the lucky ones. Her film career as a leading lady remained strong through the 1950s.

About ten years after Loretta Young got her big break in Hollywood, another very young actress broke onto the scene. Linda Darnell, however, didn’t go through extra work and bit roles before she was discovered. In 1939, Darnell was cast in her first film, Hotel for Women, in a starring role with second billing. In the same year, she starred as Tyrone Powers’ wife in Daytime Wife. Power was 25. Darnell was 16. She starred with Power again the next year in The Mark of Zorro and Brigham Young, and again in 1941 in Blood and Sand. In 1940, she made the film Stardust, which was partially based on her experience in Hollywood. For the film, 17 year old Darnell was paired with 28 year old John Payne.  In that same year, she was also paired with 35 year old Henry Fonda in Chad Hanna.

Like Young, life imitated art for Darnell in her taste in men. She had a longtime affair with Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who directed her in A Letter to Three Wives. He was 17 years her senior.

Unfortunately for Darnell, she didn’t have Young’s luck in her career. Due to her aging, and being dicked around by the studio (and dumped by Mankiewicz), her career began to fade in the 1950s. She died in a house fire in 1965 at just 41 years old.

Either nobody noticed that these stars were still kids when they were playing leading ladies, or nobody cared. Today, something like that really wouldn’t go over well. Imagine if AnnaSophie Robb was cast in a romance film opposite Sean Penn, and no issue was made of the difference in age. People would go totally apeshit. Eyebrows raised in 2005 when Edward Norton romanced Evan Rachel Wood in Down in the Valley. Wood was a completely legal 18, but there was nearly a 20 year age difference. Hmm…. and people say we were more prudish back then…

Year: 1936

Director: Clarence Brown

Cast: Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Myrna Loy and James Stewart

Wife Versus Secretary actually ends up being quite a suspenseful movie as we follow devoted husband and successful businessman Van through one of the biggest business deals of his life assisted by his secretary named Whitey. It just so happens that Whitey is not only a invaluable part of the business team but a very attractive woman and while Van is able to keep the relationship strictly professional people start to talk and those around Van, including his wife, become more and more suspicious that there might be a little more to their relationship then just business. The suspense comes in the form of a question. Will Van cross that line?

This film is a very satisfactory drama with well defined and well portrayed characters. Clark Gable’s character is a charming blend of business savy and child-like exuberance. You can’t help but root for his character who is on top of the world and has so much to lose if things were to go too far with his secretary.

Jean Harlow is able to break out of her regular typecasting and play a very successful career oriented woman with a good head on her shoulders. Yet she still ends up subtly playing the role of a temptress.

Myrna Loy plays Van’s wife who lets her mother in law’s warnings about the dangers of an attractive secretary get to her. She tragically ignores her instincts and begins to question the man she should trust and love.

Keep your eyes peeled for Jimmy Stewart in one of his early roles as a young man trying to settle down with career woman Whitey.

Wife Versus Secretary has its flaws. For one thing, aspects of it are some what predictable. However, the third act doesn’t disappoint. A key scene and perhaps one of my favorites for its symbolism takes place in a car with Van’s wife and mother discussing his secretary. Just as Van’s mother places doubt in his wife’s mind concerning the possibilities of his relationship with his secretary they drive through a dark tunnel foreshadowing the possible dark times ahead that could result from doubting her faithful husband. Wife Versus Secretary is definitely a film worth watching. This is a film that thematically comes across as modern despite being released over 70 years ago.

Just a reminder that if you want to join the Obscure Classics team, you need to have your application stuff in by October 1st.

Here’s the original post that has everything you need to know…

After months of rumors, speculation, and just plain hoping, we finally know for certain that the Fox Borzage/Murnau DVD will be released in December. We also know exactly what films will be on the set and how much it costs. So let’s take a look see….

DVD Times has the DVD art…

There are 12 (!) movies. 10 Borzage (!!!!!) and 2 Murnau. And one feature length documentary about the directors.

LazyBones (Borzage, 1925)
Feature film, still gallery, and a new score.

Street Angel (Borzage, 1928)
Feature film and still gallery.

Seventh Heaven (Borzage, 1927)
Feature film, audio commentary, still gallery, a reproduction of the existing footage of Borzage’s The River, including a still gallery.

Sunrise (Murnau, 1927)
Movietone version of the feature film, European version of the feature film, original score, new score, audio commentary, Outtakes with title card or audio commentary, Original scenario with notations by Murnau, theatrical trailer, still gallery, screenplay, restoration notes

Lucky Star (Borzage, 1929)
Feature film, new score, still gallery

They Had to See Paris (Borzage, 1929)
Feature film, still gallery

City Girl (Murnau, 1930)
Feature film, new score, still gallery, a documentary on Murnau’s lost film 4 Devils, including the screen play, treatment, and still gallery

Lilliom (Borzage, 1930)
Feature film and still gallery

After Tomorrow (Borzage, 1932)
Feature film and still gallery

Young America (Borzage, 1932)
Feature film and still gallery

Song o’ My Heart (Borzage, 1930)
Full sound version of the film, Music and effects version of the film, still gallery

Bad Girl (Borzage, 1931)
Feature Film

Murnau, Borzage, and Fox
Feature length documentary

It is pretty pricey folks. People were originally estimating between $90 and $120. But it looks like we got a few more films than we were expecting, and it’s loaded with features. So the market price is about $240. Right now you can pre-order it at amazon $179.99. So it looks like this is going to be my Christmas and birthday present. But god, it’s so worth it.

I’ll keep my eyes open and let you guys know if there’s any place that has it cheaper.

Year: 1942

Director: Elliott Nugent

Cast: Henry Fonda, Olivia DeHavilland, Jack Caron, Joan Leslie

The “The Male Animal” started as a play a written by two former college roommates, James Thurber and Elliott Nugent. James Thurber was one of America’s best known humorists, mainly of short stories and cartoons. Some of his best works include “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, “The Cat Bird Seat”, and “The Dog Who Bit People”. Actor and writer Elliott Nugent probably best known as a film director of such lightweight movies as “The Cat and the Canary” (1939), “My Favorite Brunette”, “Up in Arms”, “Mr. Belvedere Goes to College” and uncharacteristically, the 1949 version of “The Great Gatsby.” The play premiered on Broadway in January of 1940 and was a hit running for about eight months. On stage, Nugent played the role of Tommy Turner later performed in the film by Henry Fonda. Warner Brothers purchased the rights and made it into a film in 1942.

Freedom of speech, the battle between the sexes and brains over brawn are the main themes in this film. Tommy Turner (Fonda) is an English professor at Midwestern University where three professors have recently been fired by the Board of Trustees for allegedly being communist. Tommy meanwhile is teaching a class that will include an example of a well written letter authored by anarchist Bartholomew Vanzetti. When Board of Trustee, Ed Keller (Eugene Palette) hears about it, he threatens to fire Tommy if he reads the letter in class.

Meanwhile there is big football game coming up against Michigan State and former local hero Joe Ferguson (Jack Carson) has come home for the big game. Ferguson and Ellen Turner (Olivia DeHavilland), Tommy’s wife, were once an item back in their college days. Ferguson still has a crush on the beautiful Ellen and makes no bones about making it known. With the possibility of losing his job, Ellen wants Tommy to give up the idea of reading the controversial Vanzetti letter in class. In fact, Tommy is being told by everyone it is not worth losing your job over just to read this letter, however Tommy is a person who does like to be told what he cannot say or say. He also does not like the fact that Joe Ferguson is making moves on his wife. It all is neatly tied together, thanks to a nice screenplay written by Julius and Philip Epstein, with plenty laughs and a subtle message.

Henry Fonda’s performance as the intellectual professor, who in the end, wins his wife back over the former football jock and stands up for freedom of speech is a real highlight. Fonda’s reading of the Vanzetti letter is an inspiring experience giving the film an importance lacking in most comedies. Fonda always imparted a sense of idealism and decency in his roles whether it is the freedom of speech defending Professor Turner, or as Juror # 8 in “12 Angry Men”, or as Tom Joad in “The Grapes of Wrath.” Olivia DeHavilland is spunky as Ellen Turner providing a nice comical performance; however, it is Jack Carson as the football jock, Joe Ferguson and Eugene Palette as the commie hunting head Board of Trustee who provide some real hardy laughs.

Year: 1932

Director: Jack Conway

Cast: Jean Harlow, Chester Morris, Una Merkel, Lewis Stone, Leila Hymes, Henry Stephenson, May Robson, Charles Boyer, Harvey Clark

Red-Headed Woman is a very simple movie that follows a gold digger named Lillian as played by Jean Harlow as she shamelessly uses her sexuality to try and climb higher and higher. While the movie seemed mediocre to me I could certainly see why some would enjoy it more then I did. My sympathy for her boss and what he goes through as she does everything in her power to ruin his marriage got in the way of enjoying her antics. Some enjoyment comes from seeing such blatant sexuality portrayed in this pre-code film, but the shock value of hearing sex frankly discussed and sexuality paraded so freely in such an old film wears off quickly. It certainly doesn’t make up for the overly simple story line and the stiff acting of the films atypical leading man, played by Chester Morris. The acting highlights were Una Merkel, who plays Lillian’s roommate and best friend and Jean Harlow herself.

Red-Headed Woman is one of the quintessential films that typifies the typecasting that plagued Jean Harlow’s short career. The film also contains some well known scenes and dialogue from Harlow’s career that would have to be included on any reel featuring her most memorable moments. An example being the placement of a key down her blouse.  A key that is a married man’s only hope of getting out of the bedroom she has just locked him in, alone, with her. Another example is a famous line where Lillian asks a store clerk if the dress she is considering buying is transparent and after receiving the reply that it is, eagerly deciding to purchase it.

The film is an interesting look at the lengths a woman so inclined would go to in order to secure status and wealth. My assumption is that the film was meant to be light and fun, a sexual romp on celluloid, if you will, but I couldn’t help but get distracted by the tragedy of Jean Harlow’s character and the mayhem her promiscuous choices cause. I wonder if any women would find any sort of joy out of the portrayal of power a woman wielding her sexuality can have and the influence she can have simply by being beautiful and sexually accessible. My guess is that most women would look down on her and find her inability to be successful in a less demeaning way tragic. It is interesting to see how a woman willing to abandon all self-respect can so easily throw a monkey wrench in the lives of incredibly powerful and influential men. Perhaps I over thought this movie. Those interested in simply seeing a 1930s film that deals candidly with the subject of sex will likely get a kick out of this naughty bit of nostalgia.

I know, there hasn’t been an update in a long time. There were a lot of personal things going on that would bore you all silly. But things seem to be taken care of (or at least they will be within the next few days) and I can get back on track.

One of the good things about having the new writers coming on in the next month or so is that this sort of thing (going so very long without an update) shouldn’t happen quite as much. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to bring more people on regularly.

Greg and I do have a new podcast to put up. We recorded it a few weeks ago now, but there have been some technical difficulties (file hosting sites ain’t what they used to be). As soon as we find a site that will actually let Greg upload his half of the podcast so I can download it and edit in with mine, we’ll be golden.

And I do have a few reviews that were sent to me that I’ll be uploading over the next few days, and hopefully I’ll get some stuff up myself.

I just wanted to let you all know that we aren’t dead. At least, I’m pretty sure we aren’t. Maybe we all got sucked into a black hole when they turned on that super collider thing, and we just don’t realize it.

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