Tag Archives: Warner Bros

Black Legion

Cover of "Black Legion"

Cover of Black Legion

Directed by Archie Mayo & Michael Curtiz (uncredited)
Produced by Robert Lord
Written by Story: Robert Lord
Screenplay: Abem Finkel & William Wister Haines
Starring Humphrey Bogart
Dick Foran
Erin O’Brien-Moore
Ann Sheridan
Music by W. Franke Harling, Howard Jackson & Bernhard Kaun (all uncredited)
Cinematography George Barnes
Editing by Owen Marks
Studio Warner Bros.
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) January 17, 1937 (NYC)
January 30, 1937 (US)
Running time 83 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Black Legion is a 1937 film that depicts an offshoot of the notorious Ku Klux Klan. Many of the messages contained in the film are just as poignant today as they were 70+ years ago, that is that in times of trouble that it is easy to blame and scapegoat migrants. Having recently read the ramblings of a Melbourne white supremacist who among other things labelled me a ‘race traitor’, shows that despite what some people say, deep racism is still around. Just by browsing the Anti-Bogan website you can see just how warped some people still are about these things.

In Black Legion Humphrey Bogart plays Frank Taylor, a factory worker who gets passed over for a promotion at his job, which goes to Polish American Henry Brandon. Taylor ends up falling for the propaganda of the Black Legion, a clandestine white supremicist organisation. Thanks to the ideas promoted by the Legion, Taylor begins to blame foreigners for his woes. There are consequences for Taylor as he loses his wife and child and then murders his best friend after letting slip his membership of the Legion.

The film is very well acted and the young Bogart is great. This was still a year or so before he became a big star. The film is a little preachy, but it is still totally absorbing.


The Public Enemy

Cover of "The Public Enemy"

Cover of The Public Enemy

Directed by William A. Wellman
Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck
Written by Kubec Glasmon, John Bright &Harvey F. Thew
Starring James Cagney
Jean Harlow
Edward Woods
Joan Blondell
Mae Clarke
Cinematography Devereaux Jennings
Editing by Ed McCormick & Edward McDermott
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date April 23, 1931
Running time 96 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Public Enemy was the first of many gangster films that Warner Bros. made in the 1930s starring Jimmy Cagney as Tom Powers. It features one of cinemas most iconic scenes where Cagney shoves 1/2 a grapefruit into the face of Mae Clarke. It is a great film and Cagney’s performance is quite menacing and the evil Powers, although a lot of the time he does have a weird smile on his face which I don’t know whether to attribute to Cagney having a lot of fun with the role, or whether it just shows the smug conceit of Powers.

It is worth comparing Cagney’s portrayal of Tom Powers with that of another of the great 30s cinematic gangsters in Paul Muni’s Tony Camonte from Scarface. Whereas Camonte wants to prove himself a bigshot and his bravery turns out to be a mere facade without any support from his family or friends, Powers is an angry young man who seems to have no fear. While Camonte is seduced by power and money, Powers only motivation seems to be that he is a truly evil person.

You can also make a comparison about the two gangster’s mothers. Whilst Camonte’s mother knows that what he is doing is wrong and will cause the downfall of the family, Powers’ Ma is oblivious, or at the very least turning a blind eye to, all of his criminal activity. When Powers’ dead body is dumped at his family home we know his Ma is in for the shock of her life, whilst Camonte’s mother seems to be expecting his doom.

I think that the only disappointment with The Public Enemy is the brief performance of Jean Harlow as a gangsters moll. Her accent is all over the place.

Either way both The Public Enemy and Scarface are gret films featuring truly charismatic performances from the lead characters.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Image via Wikipedia

Directed by David Yates
Produced by David Heyman, David Barron & J. K. Rowling
Screenplay by Steve Kloves
Based on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
Starring Daniel Radcliffe
Rupert Grint
Emma Watson
Ralph Fiennes
Alan Rickman
Helena Bonham Carter
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Orchestrator:
Conrad Pope
Themes:
John Williams
Cinematography Eduardo Serra
Editing by Mark Day
Studio Heyday Films
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date 18 November 2010
Running Time 146 minutes
Country United Kingdom & United States
Language English

It’s almost over. Almost a decade ago the first Harry Potter film was released and there is just one more picture to go until it is all finally over. Deathly Hallows part 1 I find to be OK, but it is very different to the other films in the series. There is no Hogwarts or the fun associated with it, while most of the supporting cast are relegated to cameo appearances in the first 10 minutes of the film. The entire movie focusses on the dynamic between Harry, Hermione and Ron. Much of the movie is like one big camping trip with the three main characters and their tent being in the spotlight for a long time. The film is quite slow but it builds and makes the viewer want the final installment now rather than in July.

This Potter film is a lot darker than the rest of the series and there is not much in the way of comic relief as in the other films. This movie feels a lot more like a Lord of the Rings type film than Harry Potter. (I guess JK Rowling based the last book on Tolkien’s work?!)

I must admit that I did not anticipate this film like I have the others in the Potter series. I gave up reading the books after the fifth installment and even though I do have the final two books here at home, I have never really had the inclination to read them. Maybe it’s because of the dread that if I do read them then the story will be finished. (Does that make sense?!)


The Valley Of Gwangi

Directed by Jim O’Connolly
Produced by Charles H. Schneer & Ray Harryhausen
Starring James Franciscus
Gila Golan
Richard Carlson
Laurence Naismith
Freda Jackson
Gustavo Rojo
Music by Jerome Moross
Cinematography Erwin Hillier
Editing by Henry Richardson & Selwyn Petterson
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date September 3, 1969
Running time 96 minutes
Country United States
Language English

You would think that any movie that combines cowboys with dinosaurs would be the best film ever made, but that is not the case with Valley Of Gwangi. This is not to say that it is a bad movie, it just doesn’t live up to the potential of the premise of the film. It takes 45 minutes until Gwangi, an Allosaurus (not a T-rex), appears.

Despite all this the film is still pretty good. It is impossible to dislike anything that features the stop-motion magic of Ray Harryhausen, although he is not at the top of his game here. Some of the animation is a bit jerky and not as smooth as it should be, for example with the flight of the Pteradactyl or in the scenes where Gwangi battles the elephant. Despite this the film is still enjoyable.


The Girl Can’t Help It

Directed by Frank Tashlin
Produced by Frank Tashlin
Written by Frank Tashlin & Herbert Baker
Starring Tom Ewell
Jayne Mansfield
Edmond O’Brien
Music by Bobby Troup
Cinematography Leon Shamroy
Editing by James B. Clark
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date December 1, 1956
Running time 99 min
Country United States
Language English

The Girl Can’t Help It is an interesting film for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was one of the first rock ‘n’ roll movies and featured performances by Little Richard, Gene Vincent and others. In fact this film was the inspiration for a couple of Liverpool lads to get decide to become rock stars too. Apparently some guy named John Lennon was obsessed with the film and seeing all of his heroes on the big screen, while another guy, Paul McCartney impressed Lennon with his impression of Eddie Cochran’s performance of Twenty Flight Rock  from this movie. They started their own band which later became known as the Beatles or something. You may have heard of them.

The film was directed by Frank Tashlin, who as I have previously said started off directing cartoons for Warner Bros. He brings a few cartoony gag including one that I found quite funny and was a little rude. I am talking about the scene where Jayne Mansfield walks past the milkman and the lids of the milk bottles pop off and the milk starts coming out.

The film’s star is Jayne Mansfield who really was nothing more than a Marilyn Monroe wannabe. This may seem a bit harsh but it looks as though she was told in this film to act as much like Marilyn as possible, as that is all she does. Mansfield was not really known for her acting ability but for something else, as Sophia Loren can see in the picture here. Let’s just say that her bosoms were bigger than her talent. Later in her career Mansfield became more well-known for her wardrobe malfunctions than any of the movies that she made. She later appeared in a film called Promises! Promises! where she became the first mainstream film star since the early 30s to appear on film in the nude, thanks to the demise of the Hays Code. Jayne’s daughter is Mariska Hargitay, who plays Olivia Benson on Law & Order SVU. You can certainly see the resemblance between the two, especially in the facial features.

As for the film, it is funny and entertaining and the music is great but it is a bit dated.


Hold That Ghost

Directed by Arthur Lubin
Produced by Burt Kelly & Glenn Tryon
Written by Robert Lees, Fred Rinaldo & John Grant
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Richard Carlson
The Andrews Sisters
Shemp Howard
Music by H.J. Salter Editing by Philip Cahn
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date August 6, 1941 (U.S. release)
Running time 85 min
Language English

Universal Australia are currently re-releasing a lot of their Universal classics onto DVD, but it seems that in this country anyway, they don’t want to release any of the classic Abbott & Costello movies of the 1940s. Before the end of the year some Laurel and Hardy films will be released (great) but no A&C. (Not even the classic A&C Meet Frankenstein) I am actually not entirely sure whether there have been any official A&C DVD releases in Australia, although I do know that Africa Screams is available on a cheap public domain DVD. It’s a shame as they are really good films.

Hold That Ghost is one of the earliest A&C films and their first foray into the comedy/horror genre that they would do to greater effect a few years later. One of the first things that I noticed with this film is just how abusive Bud is to Lou. There are occasions where he hits Costello with all the fervour of Moe Howard slapping Larry and Curly in the 3 Stooges shorts. It is quite uncomfortable to watch and I am glad that this element was toned down in later films as it doesn’t seem to have the cartoony humour of the Stooges. It just seems really mean.

It is a pretty funny film and it did provide quite a few laughs, although I found Lou to be a tad more annoying than he is in later films. Here he is a man/child rather than a proper, well defined character. I guess as this was just the third film that Abbott & Costello (but fourth released) made they were still honing their screen personas, even though they had been working together on the vaudeville circuit for many years. He also does that annoying whistle thing that Warner Bros. Babbitt and Catstello always parodied. Otherwise he does have a few golden moments, including the famed candle sequence and is quite funny.

It should be noted that Shemp Howard, one of the 3 Stooges appears briefly in this film as a bartender. He doesn’t really do anything of note but it’s always interesting to see Shemp pop up in non-Stooge films. This was in the years when Shemp was trying to make it on his own and Curly took his place in the Stooges. (Although Shemp would replace Curly a few years later after Curly’s stroke) He’s also in W.C. Fields’ The Bank Dick.

I enjoyed the film a lot and wish that this and other A&C comedies would be officially released in this country onto DVD. They have been released several times in the USA so it’s not that difficult for Universal Australia to do (hint, hint).


Gay Purr-ee

Directed by Abe Levitow
Produced by Henry G. Saperstein & Lee Orgel
Written by Joan Janis & Chuck Jones
Starring Judy Garland
Robert Goulet
Mel Blanc
Music by Harold Arlen & E.Y. “Yip” Harburg
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date October 24, 1962 (USA)
Running time 85 mins.
Language English

This is a film that I have wanted to see for a very long time. It was made by the famed UPA cartoons studio, which modernised animation in the 1950s and usurped Disney’s position as the industries leading light. They also took home several Oscars in that decade and created Mr Magoo and Gerald McBoing Boing (with Dr Seuss), but by this films release in 1962 their light had well and truly faded. The studios guiding light, John Hubley had left in the 50s and by 1959 UPA had lost their theatrical distribution contract with Columbia.

This film was also also responsible for Chuck Jones being fired by Warner Bros. Jones had moonlighted for UPA in writing this film, which Warner’s did not appreciate as they had an exclusivity contract with him. Even though Jones is only credited as writing this film some of the character designs, particularly that of Mewsette, look as though they are his style. Many of his team of animators from Warner Bros. were also involved in this project.

There is a bit of other star power in this film. Three decades before it became trendy for major Hollywood stars to do the voices in animated films Judy Garland did the voice of Mewsette. Robert Goulet and Red Buttons play the other leading characters Juane Tom and Robespierre while Paul Frees who was no stranger to voicing animated characters, played the part of Meowrice. The songs in the film which are quite catchy were written by the team of Arlen and Harburg who a couple of decades earlier wrote the songs for another Judy Garland vehicle, The Wizard Of Oz.

The film is quite entertaining but not quite as good as the fare that Disney was making at that time. There is a bit of the UPA pretensions that they were making art rather than making a cartoon, but these are actually enjoyable. The backgrounds are really nice to look at and the little lecture on the different artists from the turn of last century was kind of cool too.