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 Mikeradiates sunshine, and even gruff Tracy looks pleased to doff sound-staging for
once. Hepburn was a natural athlete, so is well cast, a lot of golf and tennis
stuff less often using a double. She even takes her own nasty spill on the
court that I bet a crew and onlookers applauded from behind cameras. Tracy was in latter stage
of playing get-up-and-go types. He seemed happier with comedy as years and
sameness of dramatic performance took hold. The Sea Of Grass
apparently taught he and Hepburn never to be serious with each other again, a
relief for them and more so for their public.
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-bowedGone With The Wind. There's privileged glimpse of grunt work by manual crews
whose job it was to duplicate the Garden
Of Versailles in the
forecourt for movie stars who'd arrive hours later. You really get insight here
of caste structure that pervaded Gold-Age Hollywood, from day-laboring to fan
worship behind velvet ropes, then beautiful folk descending from Olympus that
was just over the hill in Culver City. Did gods and goddesses disillusion on
up-close inspection? There isNorma Shearerentering on the arm of Tyrone Power. Much of MGM talent follows --- was their attendance compulsory? A
sign-in book with what looks like hundreds of names would go for thousands if
auctioned today. Wonder who ended up with it. Did one of the four-bits an hour'ers
sweep up that souvenir and take it home to his kids?
WAGONS WEST (1952)--- Rod Cameron breaks trail
for Monogram. This, along with others the company did in Cinecolor, blurred
lines between B westerns and A status they aspired to. There were good casts,
trade support, and top-of-bill playdates. Director Ford Beebe made budget yards
go a mile. Monogram did Wagons West toward elevation to new company name (and
corporate identity) Allied Artists. Westerns of Wagons' quality helped make the
jump. They were cushions for disappointment youth felt as series cowboys headedfor the barn. Saturdays would change, though not all of a sudden. Indeed, front
row kids were still being cultivated to the end of the 50's.
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 Laurel
make his initial US
way imitating CC? Fun and fascinating by modest means, Just Rambling Alongwas
Hal Roach produced, ten years shy of SL's breakthrough with Oliver Hardy. The
heaven knows he paid enough dues. Part of Kino's Stan Laurel --- Volume Two DVD
set. Fine quality and score.
THE MAGIC CARPET (1951)--- Rightful caliph John
Agar alights titular rug to quell tyrannical Bagdad
rule. This was producer Sam Katzman following Columbia lead of costumers with
Cornel Wilde, Larry Parks, others, from which Sam entertains best of the lot. A
game cast larks through it, Lucille Ball and Patricia Medina perpetually at verge
of loosing sarcasm on the enterprise. Agar flies his carpet with élan and
fights nimbly without recourse to doubles, as Lucy shares a kiss with wicked vizier
Raymond Burr. Suppose he/she reminded him/her of this at later Emmy ceremonies
both attended? Katzman/Columbia spent more than customary on The Magic Carpet, with
improved Super-Cinecolor brought to bear, thus pleasing blues added to Cine's
usual red/green palette. I'd guess Carpet got back into theatres by dint of
Lucy and Ray's burgeoning home viewership to come. Available via Columbia
On-Demand and looks just fine.
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.