The Watch List For 10/17/12
PAT AND MIKE (1952) --- A Tracy-Hepburn I'd never entirely sat through, but should have long before, as it now ranks for me best of their lot. Shot mostly outdoors because of sports-centered theme, Pat and Mike radiates sunshine, and even gruff
It's shocking how Spence aged in the wake of Pat and Mike. I kept thinking how Guess Who's Coming To Dinner and the end came only fifteen years later. Will my own decline be so fleet? Makes me wanna take the pledge and stay on the wagon if nothing else. Pro sport figures of the day appear and lend conviction to P&M, Hepburn exerting to believable effect alongside them. She's easier to like when not pushy, and as here, being gently (or not) manipulated by promoter Tracy. Pat and Mike coming on heels of The African Queen must have made it look like Hepburn's second wind at the wickets, as both were hits, and she got (deserved) credit for making them so. Jaunty music score by the great David Raksin. TCM's print is spanking clean and that helps. This would be a pip on Blu-Ray or HD streaming.
HOLLYWOOD GOES TO TOWN (1938) --- MGM gets ready for a big Marie Antoinette premiere at the Carthay Circle Theatre where they later Hollywood-bowed Gone With The Wind. There's privileged glimpse of grunt work by manual crews whose job it was to duplicate the
FROM A TO ZZZZ (1954) --- Apologies to Chuck Jones fandom, but I find his cartoons overly-precious and not a little smug. This is one of the Ralph Phillips numbers, a boy who daydreams. Limiting animation by 1954 was as much necessity as creative choice, so I miss crowded canvas of late-thirties and forties WB shorts. Jones gags are cute, but I lean toward Frank Tashlin or Bob Clampett's wackier stuff. This gets admittedly into matters of opinion, and maybe (probably!) I don't know a great cartoon when I see one. Looneys were costing more and earning less as they wound down. That was a long process though, and From A To ZZZ came around a beginning of it. Chuck Jones would end up a most noteworthy of drawing directors. His approach was unique and I see his appeal, but it just doesn't happen to fly my kite. Are cartoons even more a matter of individual taste than features?
JUST RAMBLING ALONG (1918) --- Yes, just rambling is what this amounts to, but a banquet for those who trail Stan Laurel's career back to beginnings. I had thought Just Rambling Along was the earliest surviving Laurel-solo comedy, till historian and comedy expert Richard Roberts informed me (in the comments section) that there are earlier ones extant. Rambling Stan's on the bum in that seeming way of all silent comics, cadging dimes and sneaking past pay registers. No attempt at loveable here. He'll steal from kids and wallop womenfolk. Stan has slicked-down hair and a long face. His weren't striking features that helped Keaton, Chaplin, and Lloyd stay aloft. For myriad of shorts SL did, bouncing to and fro short-term companies, you'd have thought he'd never make it. Certainly a Just Rambling Along wouldn't punch his ticket. Gags herein look borrowed. Clever was a hat routine, but I wonder how familiar it was to 1918 patronage. When Stan uses salt/pepper shakers as a spyglass, I was reminded of Chaplin doing the same, and often. Well, didn't
THE MAGIC CARPET (1951) --- Rightful caliph John Agar alights titular rug to quell tyrannical
GUN TO GUN (1944) --- Another of Warners' junior-mint westerns, again with Robert Shayne, and culled from action/crowd footage going back to the early thirties (and welcome's the sight of old-timer Tom Tyler, above, in what amounts to a cameo). Did someone at WB keep a tickler file on oldies they could raid for wide-awake scenes to enhance two-reel shorts like this? Never mind awkward match-ups, some of what's here might have originally been two-color Technicolor from cloudy look of it. The story, stripped to barest essentials, was basis for 1931's The Lash as well, that starring Richard Barthelmess, and by 1944, long out of circulation. They reused the yarn, plus big scenes that propelled it, and for all latter viewers knew, Gun To Gun was fresh meat. Were there hardcore moviegoers alert to the subterfuge? Maybe they played a screen equivalent of Charades as do we --- trying to guess throughout Gun To Gun where each pillaged scene comes from.