Category Archives: 1940s

Teddy, The Rough Rider

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.


Never Give A Sucker An Even Break

Directed by Edward F. Cline
Starring W.C. Fields
Gloria Jean
Margaret Dumont
Franklin Pangborn
Leon Errol
Music by Charles Previn & Frank Skinner
Cinematography Charles Van Enger
Editing by Arthur Hilton
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date 10 October 1941
Running time 71 min.
Country U.S.
Language English

Never Give A Sucker An Even Break is a quite surreal film in that W.C. Fields is playing himself trying to pitch a film. It has quite a few funny scenes but is a little uneven. The bits where he’s discussing his script with Franklin Pangborn are amusing but the movie that Fields had envision is quite weird (I guess that’s the point!).

I could compare this film to a Marx Bros. film as it mixes music with the comedy. In Never Give A Sucker An Even Break Fifteen year old Gloria Jean sings some light operatic songs, but unlike those types of songs in the Marx’s films, these musical interludes are not completely boring, which I guess is testament to the fact that Ms. Jean had some semblance of a personality, which can rarely be said for the singers in the Marx films. The songs here are just as mind-numblingly boring as those in Marx Bros. films, but in one scene in particular Ms. Jean actually pokes fun at this fact by showing how bored she is with the song. There is so much other funny stuff going on in the background that you don’t have to hit the fast forward button. Considering she was so young and seemed to be a talented actress and singer, I wonder why she did not appear in many more films.

Another comparison to the Marx Bros. is that Fields tries to woo Margaret Dumont in order to become wealthy. This is part of his script for his fictional film. Unlike Groucho though, Fields comes to his senses when he sees just what he’s gotten himself into. Another contrast here is that Ms. Dumont really isn’t playing the straight man to Fields here and that she is in on the joke. Perhaps Fields included this element to satirize the Marx Bros. films? He does mention Groucho by name in an early scene.

This is a funny yet weird film. The parts that are not Fields’ fantasy seem to work the best.
Never Give A Sucker An Even Break is a part of the W.C. Fields Comedy Collection Volume 2 with The Man On The Flying Trapeze, You’re Telling Me, The Old Fashioned Way and Poppy. This DVD box set is available from Amazon for $43.99. You can purchase it by clicking here…


Destino

The Persistence of Memory is one of the most f...

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Directed by Dominique Monféry
Produced by Baker Bloodworth & Roy E. Disney
Written by Salvador Dalí, John Hench & Donald W. Ernst
Music by Armando Dominguez
Music Adaptation: Michael Starobin
Editing by Jessica Ambinder-Rojas
Studio Disney Studios France
Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures
Release date USA: December 19, 2003
France:  June 1, 2003

Destino was a collaboration between Disney and Salvador Dali that commenced in 1945/46 but was unfinished. They had storyboarded it but due to financial difficulties and the war the project was cancelled. It was resurrected in 2000 by Roy Disney and finally premiered in 2003.

It has not been released onto DVD yet, although it could be an extra release with the forthcoming Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 release next year. It was supposed to have been a part of the Walt Disney Treasures line but that never came to fruition. It is quite interesting and very Dali-esque. Destino was a part of the National Gallery Of Victoria‘s 2009 Dali exhibition; Liquid Desires.


Make Mine Music

Directed by Jack Kinney, Clyde Geronimim, Hamilton Luske, Joshua Meador & Robert Cormack
Produced by Walt Disney
Written by James Bordrero
Homer Brightman
Erwin Graham
Eric Gurney
T. Hee
Sylvia Holland

Dick Huemer
Dick Kelsey
Jesse Marsh
Tom Oreb
Cap Palmer
Erdman Penner
Harry Reeves
Dick Shaw
John Walbridge
Roy Williams
Starring Nelson Eddy
Dinah Shore
Benny Goodman
The Andrews Sisters

Jerry Colonna
Sterling Holloway
Andy Russell
David Lichine
Tania Riabouchinskaya
The Pied Pipers
The King’s Men
The Ken Darby Chorus
Studio Walt Disney Productions
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Release date April 20, 1946
Running time 67 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Sometimes I can understand why people illegally download movies from the internet, even though I would never condone such a thing. A case in point is Disney’s Make Mine Music which is not available to my knowledge on DVD in Australia but the American version can easily be found on Amazon. But beware, as the American DVD is censored, with one whole section, The Martins and The Coys, taken out because… I’m not sure. Some people say that this section was taken out because it is offensive to Southerners in the USA, while others say that it’s because there is excessive gunplay. Whatever the reason I don’t think that it should be censored. I can understand people wanting to find the uncensored version of this and think that when companies censor in this way they sort of deserve to lose revenue from people making illegal but complete copies.

Anyway this film is made up of ten segment which we would all be pretty familiar with as they were shown on the Wonderful World of Disney all the time, but now they are rarely seen. I don’t know if I had ever seen the film in it’s entirety before, just the segments individually.

The most well known of the segments are…

The Martins And The Coys

The most infamous of the segments now because it has been banned.

All The Cats Join In

I like this a lot. The music is very catchy and the animation is good.

Casey At The Bat

The most famous of the segments. Pretty funny.

Peter And The Wolf

I liked this segment as a kid but think it’s just OK now. The characters are cute.

Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnett

This has the Andrews Sisters and other than that I didn’t like it very much.

The Whale Who Wanted To Sing At the Met

This is quite funny and the whale is cute, but the ending is sad.

Anyway this is a pretty good piece of forgotten Disney animation. It would be good if Disney could give it a proper (complete) DVD release or even show it on TV so that kids (and adults) can see it.

This reminds me that tomorrow (Friday August 6th 2010) Disney Channel are showing Fantasia at 6.30pm, in between the endless ads for Jonus, Hannah Montana and all th eother stupid tween shows that are currently on Disney.


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