Category Archives: 1940s

Teddy, The Rough Rider

Col. Theodore Roosevelt. Crop of Image:Theodor...

Image via Wikipedia

Directed by Ray Enright
Produced by Gordon Hollingshead
Written by Charles L. Tedford
Starring Sidney Blackmer
Pierre Watkin
Cinematography Ray Rennahan
Editing by Everett Dodd
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date 24 February 1940
Running time 19 minutes
Country United States
Language English

I guess that it could well be considered un-Australian to watch a patriotic film about one of America’s greatest presidents on Australia Day, but that is just what I did yesterday. I found this short biopic on President Theodore Roosevelt from 1940 to be quite fascinating. There is no doubt from watching this short that Teddy was a great man and an interesting character and was someone who was loved by America and Americans.

This film gives a brief 20 minute overview of the great man’s public life. I’m not sure how accurate it is, but it does skip his failure to return to the presidency in 1912. The film starts when he was NYC police commissioner, to when he became Assistant Secretary of the Navy, to his military career leading his Rough Riders in the fight in the Spanish-American War, to when he became vice-president and finally president after the assassination of President McKinley.

Sidney Blackmer is quite charismatic (but slightly annoying) as the great man, and whilst this film purports to being a biopic I can’t help thinking that it had another, underlying message. The film was released in 1940 and Europe was at war with itself, but the USA was to stay out of any war at any cost and another Roosevelt, FDR, was in the White House. When in the film Teddy talks about standing up for smaller nations against larger aggressors in the final scene, it could be taken that he is talking to the American people and telling hem that Britain and Europe needs their help. However it would take another 12 months and an act of Japanese aggression at Pearl Harbor before the sleeping American giant would awaken.

Teddy, The Rough Rider can be found as an extra on the Knute Rockne All American DVD.


The Road To Morocco

Cover of "Road to Morocco"

Cover of Road to Morocco

Directed by David Butler
Produced by Paul Jones
Written by Frank Butler & Don Hartman
Starring Bob Hope
Bing Crosby
Dorothy Lamour
Anthony Quinn
Music by Victor Young
Cinematography William Mellor
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date November 10, 1942
Running time 82 min
Country U.S.
Language English

Like Webster’s Dictionary we’re Morocco bound.

The Road To Morocco is perhaps the most famous of the road movies that was made featuring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. I think that younger people would perhaps recognise the famous theme song which in recent times has been parodied by Family Guy, although the song is funny enough even now. The film itself is quite amusing and silly with Bob and Bing getting in a few clever one liners, especially when they break the fourth wall and talk to the audience. The plot is quite nonsensical but it is a lot of fun.


Miracle On 34th Street

Miracle on 34th Street

Image via Wikipedia

Directed by George Seaton
Produced by William Perlberg
Screenplay by George Seaton
Story by Valentine Davies
Starring Maureen O’Hara
John Payne
Natalie Wood
Edmund Gwenn
Harry Antrim
Music by Cyril Mockridge
Cinematography Lloyd Ahern & Charles G. Clarke
Editing by Robert L. Simpson
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date May 2, 1947 (US)
Running time 96 minutes
Language English

Miracle On 34th Street was a 1947 Christmas movie that was released at the start of May. Edmund Gwenn won an Academy Award for best supporting actor playing Santa Claus in this film. The film also features 9-year-old Natalie Wood and Maureen O’ Hara.

This is one of the best Christmas movies ever made, much better than the 1994 remake. It is sincere and doesn’t take itself too seriously at all. It is a sweet tale of the power of faith and that your dreams can come true if you believe. There is a lot of humour in the film and Gwenn is the quintessential Kris Kringle. Everyone puts in a good performance and the film is extremely entertaining too. It is a bit sentimental but it is not at all cynical.


Lassie Come Home

Lassie Come Home

Image via Wikipedia

Directed by Fred M. Wilcox
Produced by Samuel Marx
Written by Novel:
Eric Knight
Screenplay:
Hugo Butler

Starring Pal
Roddy McDowall
Donald Crisp
Dame May Whitty
Edmund Gwenn
Elizabeth Taylor
Nigel Bruce
Elsa Lanchester
J. Patrick O’Malley

Music by Daniele Amfitheatrof
Cinematography Leonard Smith
Editing by Ben Lewis
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date October 7, 1943
Running time 89 minutes
Language English

Lassie Come Home is the type of movie that we rarely see anymore. It is a film that is accessible to everyone, whether they are 5 years old or 95. It is a classic family film with a great storyline and some real tear-jerking moments.

The movie is set in the depression era Yorkshire and features Lassie, the rough Collie who belongs to the Carraclough family, and in particular young Joe. Unfortunately the family can no longer afford to keep Lassie and have to sell him to the Duke of Rudling. Unfortunately for the Duke Lassie seems to always find a way to escape from his kennels and find her way back to Joe. Even when the Duke takes Lassie to Scotland, she finds a way of escaping and managing to make her way back to Yorkshire. We see all the perils that Lassie faces during her travels and the friendly (and not so friendly) people she encounters along the way.

There are some terrific performances in the film. The best performance is by Pal, the collie who played Lassie. (Pal was a male Collie by the way.) It also features very early performances by Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor, who were ably supported by veterans Donald Crisp, Elsa Lanchester, Nigel Bruce and Edmund Gwen.


Love Happy

Marx Brothers by Yousuf Karsh, 1948

Image via Wikipedia

Directed by David Miller
Produced by Mary Pickford
David Miller
Written by Mac Benoff
Frank Tashlin
Harpo Marx (story)
Starring Harpo Marx
Chico Marx
Groucho Marx
Ilona Massey
Vera-Ellen
Marion Hutton
Marilyn Monroe

Music by Ann Ronell

Cinematography William Mellor

Editing by Basil Wrangell

Distributed by United Artists

Release date: October 12, 1949 (San Francisco Premiere)
March 3, 1950

This film is notable for two things, 1) it is the worst of all the Marx Bros. films and 2) it features the screen debut of Marilyn Monroe.

Groucho never appears on-screen with his other two brothers, while Chico looks very old (he was 62) and tired. There are some OK jokes with Groucho and Harpo has a few good gags too, courtesy of Frank Tashlin who co-wrote the film. although Harpo’s schtick does wear thin after 30 minutes. The best scene is the 2 minutes when Marilyn is on-screen with Groucho getting in a couple of good lines, but overall it is a terrible and terribly boring film.


Africa Screams

Directed by Charles Barton
Produced by Edward Nassour
Written by Earl Baldwin, Martin Ragaway & Leonard Stern
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Clyde Beatty
Frank Buck
Shemp Howard
Joe Besser
Music by Walter Schumann
Distributed by United Artists
Release date May 4, 1949
(New York City, New York) May 27, 1949
Running time 80 mins.
Language English

This was one of five independent films that Abbott & Costello made throughout their career. It doesn’t have the budget of their studio films and in fact has the feel of a TV production about it. The sets are rickety and the plot at times is quite un-PC, but the film is enjoyable and a lot funnier than Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy which I previously reviewed, but nowhere near as good as Hold That Ghost or Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. They do share the spotlight with some very talented co-stars. Big game hunters Clyde Beatty and Frank Buck were big stars in the 40s and have cameos here, as does Shemp Howard of the Three Stooges and Joe Besser (who would also briefly become a Stooge) with his big sissy persona. They provide a few chuckles. Former World Heavyweight Boxing champion Max Baer and former Heavyweight contender Buddy Baer appear in the film as thugs, with Max making a joke about Buddy’s defeat by Joe Louis‘ knocking him out.

This is just prior to the slide in quality that A&Cs films would suffer throughout the 50s but they were a little hit and miss at this point. Africa Screams is good in comparison to what was about to come. I should also mention that Abbott is quite abusive to Costello in this film and this is perhaps the most un-likable that I have seen Bud.

Africa Screams is in the public domain and there are many poor copies of it about. The best version is available on Amazon for $7.98.


Ride ‘Em Cowboy

Directed by Arthur Lubin
Produced by Alex Gottlieb
Written by True Boardman & John Grant
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Dick Foran
Anne Gwynne
Ella Fitzgerald
Music by Frank Skinner
Cinematography John W. Boyle
Editing by Philip Cahn
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date February 20, 1942
Running time 86 minutes
Language English

Ride ‘Em Cowboy is a 1942 Abbott & Costello comedy that is funny in places but it does feel some boring musical pieces. One bright spot is the number featuring Ella Fitzgerald. I wish that she had of been given a bigger role than just being relegated to the background and singing one number, as well as the duet with the Merry Macs.

Abbott & Costello are quite funny in this, although there are a number of jokes involving native American Indians that today would be considered politically incorrect. Lou Costello is not as annoying as he was in Hold That Ghost, which came out a year earlier, and is funnier. The abuse that Bud gives Lou has also been toned down a lot since that earlier movie.


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