Classic Links

I like this interview with Glenda Farrell's biographer. Lots of interesting tidbits--Immortal Ephemera

Check out this photo of 16-year-old Leonard Maltin! I almost didn't recognize him at first, but he definitely still has the same smile--Movie Crazy

This is an interesting post about the long suffering "fifth Marx Brother" Margaret Dumont, including a dishy photo from when she was young. Also, Stacia from She Blogged By Night is cited!--Mental Floss

Open Culture has linked to 700 movies available for free online, and some of them look really interesting. This isn't your typical list of public domain flicks--Open Culture

Warner Archive: Joan Blondell and James Cagney Debut in Sinners' Holiday (1930)

There are many early films that I'll watch to check out a star in their debut or breakout film role. That was the case with the new Warner Archive release of Sinners' Holiday (1930). It features the one-two punch of Joan Blondell and James Cagney in their first screen appearances. I'll admit I didn't have high expectations for the movie, but it's an entertaining hour (to the minute), and the mesmerizing stage and screen actress Lucille LaVerne is one reason why.

It's based on the Broadway play Penny Arcade, which opened around the dawn of the Great Depression and quickly tanked. Al Jolson snapped up the rights, and insisted that Blondell and Cagney reprise their stage roles in the film version.

The story revolves around a penny arcade operated by the close-knit Delano family on a Coney Island amusement pier. There the tough-as-nails Ma Delano (LaVerne) presides over the business while her children, Myrtle (Evalyn Knapp), Joe (Ray Gallagher) and Harry (James Cagney) find themselves in varying degrees of drama.

As Myrtle's boyfriend Angel, Grant Withers is the nominal star, and he is adorable, but next to Blondell and Cagney he gives the impression of a goldfish flopping around on a table. You want things to turn out for him, but don't particularly care to see how it all pans out. Knapp is similarly pleasant, and even quite effective in her more dramatic scenes, but she had some powerful co-stars to play against.

Though they are billed fourth and fifth respectively, Cagney and Blondell both clearly have the charisma of stars, and it is exciting to see them so confident in their prospective styles from the beginning.

A young Lucille LaVerne
Cagney already possesses the dancing fingers and graceful, but jittery moves that would give his best performances that intoxicating crackle. He goes a bit over the top in some dramatic moments, but isn't too cringe worthy. Blondell gives the impression she has nothing to learn though. In a short brown hairdo that looks like a little furry cap, she already knows how to pop those big, round Joan eyes and race through her lines with perfect comic momentum and bubbly warmth.

As the Delano family matron, Lucille LaVerne was a pleasant surprise. She's got a marvelous face, with a pointy nose and chin and dark slashes of eyebrow. This is the kind of actress that I miss in modern films: a tough, wise, complex matron who is comfortable in her own skin. Most famous for voicing the queen/witch in Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), you can see why she would later be chosen to fill that commanding role. I perked up every time she appeared.

The plot is a busy tangle of romance, crime and murder that would become tiresome if the film ran any longer. As it is, it's an entertaining bit of life among the carneys. I enjoyed it, and look forward to watching it again.

Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review. This is a Manufacture on Demand (MOD) DVD. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.

10 New to Me Classic Movies in 2015

It took me nearly a month of the new year to decide, but I have finally selected the ten "new to me" movies that I plan to watch this year. This list is inspired by Ms. Laura of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings, who has been enjoying make annual "to watch" lists for years. I couldn't link to her January 6 post with her list for 2015, but it's worth searching out, because in addition to her own list, she has linked to lists from other bloggers inspired by her example.

On to my list!

Never Let Me Go (1953)

I searched this out because I'm watching all of the skating star Belita's films, but I'm also intrigued by the idea of Gene Tierney and Clark Gable together. 

The Life of Jimmy Dolan (1933)

This is one of those flicks that I keep passing on, but I've got to get to it, because I'm all about pre-codes and this one has an amazing cast.

The Steel Trap (1952)

Years ago, I set out to watch all of Teresa Wright's films. I was sidetracked before I got to this one. It'll be interesting to see her opposite Joseph Cotten in such a dramatically different scenario.

The Unsuspected (1947)

I saw this on one of the film suggestion lists at Rupert Pupkin Speaks. I always get amazing viewing ideas from the contributors to that site. I'd never heard of this title before that, and I find the idea of Claude Rains and Audrey Totter in the same movie irresistible.

The Killer is Loose (1956)

Rhonda Fleming was my big personal discovery of 2014. I'd always enjoyed her in lighter fare, but seeing her for the first time in several crime/noir films last year was fantastic, so this seemed like a good next step. I'm a big fan.

Allotment Wives (1945)

For the most part I've steered clear of Kay Francis' post-code films, she never seemed the same once those restrictions were more firmly in place, but I really enjoyed Play Girl (1941) last year, and I think it's time I give her later work another chance.

The Learning Tree (1969)

This is an unfortunate oversight on my part. I'm a huge fan of Gordon Parks and I'm really looking forward to this one.

Wicked Woman (1953)

With a title like that...

The Mask (1961)

Years ago, I bought this book from the only cool store in the tiny town where I went to college:

The cover photo, which is from The Mask, blew my mind. I'd never seen such a bizarre thing in a film before. It inspired me to search out more unusual flicks, in addition to the classics I adored, but I somehow never saw this actual film. So this year I will.

The Golden Bat (1966)

An early superhero movie, before they got so serious. This is another recommendation from Rupert Pupkin Speaks.

Quote of the Week

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I love to take actors to a place where they open a vein. That's the job. The key is that I make it safe for them to open a vein.

-Mike Nichols

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Classic Links

There's a lot more to the history of popcorn in movie theaters than I realized. Very interesting post--
Mental Floss is going to offer a streaming service? When things The Onion predicts happen in real life, we're all in trouble! I'm very curious to see what they might have to offer classic movie fans. I'm guessing not much, but I've found some good things on Amazon Prime, so who knows? (I love the commenter who suggested Etsy start their own service with "homemade" versions of movies)--/Film

This book about the very early days of Technicolor (1915-1935) sounds fascinating. It's amazing to think that there were even color silents!--The Black Maria

We didn't need an academic study to know The Wizard of Oz (1939) is the most influential Hollywood film, but it's amusing that someone made the effort to find out for sure--The Guardian

I've been curious about classic Mexican movies for a long time, and really enjoyed this review of Las Abanonadas (1945), starring Dolores Del Rio and Pedro Armendariz, who both made Hollywood films as well--Once Upon a Screen

There are all sorts of ways the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music (1965) will be celebrated, including that it will be the opening night film at TCM Classic Film Festival, with special guests Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer--The Dissolve

And as was mentioned in the article above, a restored version of the film will show in theaters nationwide on April 19 and 22--Variety

Quotes of the Week

She had the beauty of a young goddess. The luminous color of her skin, her clear ice-blue eyes, golden hair and exuberance, joie de vivre made her into a grandiose creature, extraterrestrial and at the same time moving and irresistible.

-Federico Fellini, About Anita Ekberg


She reminded me of a German soldier of the Wehrmacht who in a round-up asked me into a truck.

-Marcello Mastroianni, Also about Anita Ekberg

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Classic Links

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RIP Anita Ekberg. For me it was never about her acting, but her public persona as a woman with a passionate zest for life. Her famous fountain scene in La Dolce Vita (1960) is so effective because it is not about skill, but the force of her personality. That said, I thought she pulled off a great, offbeat performance in The Alphabet Murders (1965). She could add a jolt to a film just by being there.

Read about her eventful life in this Obituary from the Guardian

Another passing: producer Samuel Goldwyn Jr.

Though I had to do a lot of guessing, I had fun taking this silent film quiz, because I learned so many interesting tidbits--Movies Silently

I'm curious to see what David Fincher, Gillian Flynn and Ben Affleck will do with their remake of Strangers on a Train. I love that movie, but I don't feel like it's untouchable. A new version could be interesting--/Film

Roman Polanski faces extradition again. I wished he'd just turn himself in and finish this thing--
The Guardian

I've got a new article up at ClassicFlix about pre-codes featuring ladies in exotic exile. This one was a lot of fun to write, so check it out!

Lots of fun classic movie events and blogathons coming up, including:

The return of March Madness at A Mythical Monkey Writes About the Movies/All Good Things

The Favorite TV Show Blogathon at A Shroud of Thoughts

The third annual 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon co-hosted by Outspoken and Freckled/ Paula’s Cinema 
Club/ Once Upon a Screen

and the Pre-Code Blogathon, co-hosted by Shadows and Satin and

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