Podcasts for Classic Film Fans: November Roundup

 


I Saw What You Did
Esteemed Dirtbags
November 9, 2020

I’ve missed TCM Programmer Millie De Chirico’s voice in podcasting ever since her hugely entertaining show Sordid Details with co-host April Rich ended. Now she is back, with co-host and cultural writer Danielle Henderson to talk about movies. Every week the hosts will each pick a movie to share and discuss. The first episode features The Honeymoon Killers (1970) and Heavenly Creatures (1994) and I’m already a huge fan. Both De Chirico and Henderson are unpretentious, knowledgeable, and great at the sort of easygoing patter that makes a podcast a must-listen. 

 


Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls
Carmen Miranda read by Storm Large
October 20, 2020

 I continue to be impressed by the short, but substantial profiles in this podcast that is appropriate for children, but of interest for all ages. While I have long been a fan of Carmen Miranda, this episode made me realize how little I knew about her unique and turbulent life story.
 


Cinema Junkie
Black Films That Matter
July 3, 2020
 
I don’t know how I missed this fascinating episode of Beth Accomando’s film podcast from this summer, when protestors marching against police violence were the focus of media attention. Writer David F. Walker shares a well-curated list of protest films, including several lesser-known gems like The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973). I appreciated how Accomando gave Walker the space to go deep about the feelings the protests aroused in him. His comments gave the film recommendations and the more cinematic aspects of their conversations more meaning.
 


Nitrateville Radio
Scott Eyman on Cary Grant, Fright Favorites Author David J. Skal
October 18, 2020
 
After enjoying biographer Scott Eyman’s latest book, a definitive take on Cary Grant, I was eager to hear more of his thoughts about the actor. This was the interview I enjoyed the most, because there’s a bit of vinegar to it as Eyman freely shares his criticisms of various stars and films of classic Hollywood. I also enjoyed Skal’s views on classic horror in the second half of the episode.
 

Hollywood Party Podcast
Irene Mayer Selznick
July 3, 2020
 
After reading Scott Eyman’s Grant bio, I was curious to learn more about Irene Mayer Selznick, a child of Hollywood who had always intrigued me, and even more so after learning about her close, enduring friendship with the actor. Lauren Semar’s always-fascinating biography podcast fit the bill. This is a great overview of the life of a fascinating woman.
 


On Blu-ray: Glamorous Mayhem in The Opposite Sex (1956)


The first time I saw The Opposite Sex (1956), a musical remake of The Women (1939) I didn’t appreciate it. How could I when I compared it at every beat with one of the best films ever made? I had a much different experience when I watched the new Warner Archive Blu-ray release, because I saw it for its own bold, vibrant, nasty charms.

In this version of a story based on Clare Boothe Luce’s play, June Allyson plays a wronged housewife (married to the robotic Leslie Nielsen) and former singing star who loses her producer husband to a scheming showgirl (Joan Collins, sexy, but far from the magnificence of her Dynasty days). She learns about the insult via the machinations of her frenemy (Dolores Gray) and pulls herself out of misery with the help of her best friend (Ann Sheridan) and a wild social crowd including Ann Miller, Agnes Moorehead, and Joan Blondell.

The best moments are, unsurprisingly when the women are alone together, plotting, gossiping, drinking, and supporting each other through the mid-century challenges of being female. This is a stunning cast, full of big personalities that meld together miraculously. Though I hate the term “cat fight” and the way people snigger at women in physical fights, I have to admit that fisticuffs were central in my two favorite scenes: one where Allyson gets so steamed she slaps an earring off Collins and another where a kitchen at a Reno divorce ranch is obliterated in a massive, chaotic, glamorous and very entertaining battle among several cast members.

While the songs aren’t terribly memorable, and my own personal dislike of Allyson affected my perspective, the production numbers look great and hop along with bouncy energy. In a musical highlight, Dick Shawn makes a typically goofy and unhinged appearance singing the title tune in a sketch with Jim Backus as the perfect straight man. Gray lends her silky charm to a rendition of the same tune during the opening credits.

In essence, The Opposite Sex is an explosion of female charisma, glamorous gowns, gorgeous color, and dripping acid. It’s a good time.

Special features on the disc include a trailer for the film and a menu with direct links to the musical numbers.

Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.

On Blu-ray: John Wayne and Robert Ryan Butt Heads in Flying Leathernecks (1951)


Flying Leathernecks (1951) is an unusual entry in World War II cinema. While it leans into the familiar camaraderie and hijinks of many war films from the era, it offers a few visceral glimpses at the violent realities of war. This is most likely due to the influence of director Nicholas Ray, who was stuck with an assignment that ran opposite to his beliefs. I recently viewed it on a new Blu-ray from Warner Archive.

John Wayne and Robert Ryan star as Major Dan Kirby and Captain Carl “Grif” Griffin respectively. Kirby has been enlisted to lead the Wildcats Marine squadron as they head into what would become the historic battle of Guadalcanal. While the unit members had assumed that Grif would be promoted to commander, they accept their new leader, as does Griffin, who is disappointed to not get the promotion, but takes the rejection in stride and apparently with little surprise.

While they respect each other on a certain level, the men butt heads. Griffin believes in the human touch, and focuses on building strong relationships with his pilots, while Kirby is determined to face his tough job with a hardline approach. That perspective is at odds with the tenderness of his home life, where he is gentle and adoring with his wife (Janis Carter) and physically affectionate with his young son (Gordon Gebert), if in a macho way and after gifting him with a Japanese sword. It is possible that there is a divide between what Kirby assumes he has to do and what he feels.

Grif seems to understand Kirby’s conflict on some level. He doesn’t like his methods, but he doesn’t entirely write him off. Ray wisely gives them plenty of space to talk it out in long scenes that revel in the charisma of both stars. Perhaps they were both too old for their roles, but in these moments I enjoyed their presence enough that I wasn’t concerned about such details.

The supporting cast is sturdy, if not exciting. A standout is Jay Flippen as crinkly-eyed line chief and undercover supply thief Clancy. He has a face for Westerns, which is mostly what he did throughout his career, and here that quality lends some needed character and warmth to the proceedings.

As was typical of mid-century war films, the battle scenes are framed for the most part as action set pieces, but you get a glimpse of the horror these men are enduring. When they are shot, they don’t just flail around; you see the blood and the way their eyes throb with pain.

Ray was anti-war and you can sense him sliding some of his viewpoint into a studio assignment. However, for the most part the film feels like a high-flying Howard Hughes production, with its extended air battles and patriotic certainty.

Fans of World War II films will enjoy it. Ray fans won’t see the director they love here. For the most part, it is the push and pull between Wayne and Ryan that gives this production spice.

The only special feature on the disc is a trailer for the film.

Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.
 

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