Classic movie site with rare images, original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
Search Index Here

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Watch List For 4/30/13

BUGS BUNNY --- SUPERSTAR (1975) --- I remember this in the theatre, a compilation of pre-48 Warner funnies with bridging stuff of Bob Clampett explaining cartoon craft with input from past colleagues. Now it's available from Warner Archive in a spiff DVD where they replaced shorts with pristine restored work done since '75. Best thing about the new release is audio commentary by Larry Jackson, who was the brains and workhorse behind BB --- Superstar and tells its production backstory from initial idea to opening night. Jackson should go on lecture tour with this fascinating data, as he had me gripped for the entire ninety minutes, and audio chats seldom achieve that hereabouts (do cartoon enthusiasts gather anywhere, like film collectors used to?). Jackson really gets beneath skin of personalities he dealt with, including the cartoonists Clampett, Tex Avery, et al, but also Orson Welles and several fathead studio execs who couldn't see what a visionary idea the young producer proposed. Jackson was well ahead of time in knowing there was intense boomer interest for old cartoons and adult willingness to buy tickets. Bugs Bunny --- Superstar was a hit then and even more fascinating now, a highly recommended Archive buy.

ISLE OF FURY (1936) --- Clearly-labeled B off Warner assembly that assumes added interest for Humphrey Bogart's early lead with what looks for all the world like a clip-on mustache and a performance you'd never think to presage greatness. Even icons needed periods of adjustment, Bogart anchored that much more by flaccid dialogue and a story thrice told in any given year by both majors and cheapies off Poverty Row, from which origin Isle Of Fury seems to have sprung (actually, it was a Somerset Maugham story adapted earlier by WB as The Narrow Corner, but changed much here). None of this takes from fun, however, of Bogie hitching his pants, pointing to make points, and straddling thin line between a stage juvenile he'd been and the tougher persona he'd become. Warners frankly doubted at times this guy could deliver (see internal memos), and Isle Of Fury goes ways toward making their argument. It's much to Bogart's credit that he rose above pics like this, but when else would he get opportunity to don diving gear and fight an octopus that made Bela's aquatic opponent in Bride Of The Monster look documentary-real? Wonder if Bogart in housebound final days caught Isle Of Fury when it began showing up on Los Angeles tee-vee in latter half of 1956.

DANGEROUS YEARS (1947) --- Growing one-time child stars take wrong paths and rob a warehouse under influence of rottenest apple "William" Halop, former Dead End Kid whose abandonment of "Billy" is tip-off to pathological bent in this Sol Wurtzel independent venture for 20th Fox release. A community rallies 'round misguided youth as softer ones (Darryl Hickman, Dickie Moore) are encouraged to rat out those less salvageable. A third-act twist tightens morality screws and table is laid for noble sacrifice to install halos above all heads. Initial scenes at a "bad" roadhouse are fun, and look out, Marilyn Monroe is a sassy waitress in her first on-camera appearance. Things degenerate to courtroom wrap relieved but fitful by flashbacks putting blame for delinquency on Bad Dads. Pretty soon, a nun shows up from the orphanage to help us understand how gun-crazed Halop went outlaw through little fault of his own. Lots of goodies sprinkled here and there --- Fox's On-Demand DVD is a pip.

GEORGIE PRICE IN "DON'T GET NERVOUS" (1929) --- Were there Georgie Price fans, or more accurately, a Georgie Price fan? His mother, perhaps? Georgie came among hordes of vaudevillians who'd not be recalled at all but for Warner Archive's release of another Vitaphone Varieties DVD set, which after eighty-four years, enables Georgie to shine, if briefly, again. He was another who traded in song and snappy patter, and must have taken ten thousand jokes with him when he died (1964). Price came up in hardest conceivable ways (see IMDB) and was what stage managers in those days called a "pro." These Vita shorts are richer by spades once you've read a little background on artists involved. Such vaude vets seem to have sprung from American variation on Dickens novels. Don't Get Nervous is unique for taking us behind scenes at WB's Brooklyn factory where earliest talking shorts were made. There's even 24/7 shift directing Bryan Foy, of later producing everywhere fame (inc. House of Wax), here in person to bandy with Georgie (as above left), and doing so expertly (after all, Brynie was himself a trodder of boards). Performers like Georgie Price must have been a pleasure to watch then, and for my money, still are. Keep them coming, Warners!

NICK CARTER --- MASTER DETECTIVE (1939) --- Beginner director Jacques Tourneur shows what eager talent can bring to B mystery-making, this a first of two Nick Carters that were as much calling cards for the neophyte helmsman as for star Walter Pidgeon and a pulp gumshoe they brought to life (a third Carter was made, sans Tournear). Spies afoot at aerodromes was likely a worse problem in actuality than presented here, so I wonder how we got anything off the ground without foreign agentry stealing it first. War being imminent lent urgency to Nick's mission, and though words aren't spoken to that effect, tensions are palpable, and that's a boost toward excitement. Suspects range across central casting. Could we have had it better than days when line-up included Stanley Ridges, Martin Kosleck, Frank Faylen, Milburn Stone --- believe me, I could go on. There's two junctures at which nitrate film is set afire, which surprised me as the pic industry was better served keeping quiet celluloid's potential hazard. Pidgeon teetered upon major stardom as Carter, so three was his limit ... too bad. Tourneur set fog machines on high, combines process screening and location so that intrepid Carter can tommy-gun shipboard smugglers from cockpit vantage point, a highlight that must have sent kids into paradoxyms of joy. A good one.


Blogger James Abbott said...

The Nick Carters are GREAT fun; particularly for Donald Meek's terrific performance. What fun!

9:51 AM  
Blogger Vienna said...

I haven't seen any but Tourneur and Pidgeon and great supporting cast make them ones to look out for.

Vienna's Classic Hollywood.

4:51 PM  
Blogger Tom Ruegger said...

I hear Avery and Jones were not happy that Bob Clampett, in "Superstar," grabbed a lot of credit for the creation of Bugs Bunny. (And can you believe Clampett's hairpiece? It's like something Fudd might wear.)

1:02 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer speaks to the topics of Humphrey Bogart and "Isle Of Fury":

"Isle of Fury" is probably not such a good picture, though Bogart would make others during that period which were worse. What he had going for him, however, was the same thing John Gilbert had for awhile: a strong performance in a good picture that kept him going.

As the 1920s wore on, Gilbert was put in a succession of mediocre vehicles that gradually eroded his popularity, but "The Big Parade" was one of the great ones and it stayed on Broadway for over a year. While it was there and even afterwards, people would come to see a "Twelve Miles Out" or "Desert Nights," hoping to have another glimpse of the actor who played Jim Apperson.

For all those Warner suits with their questions about Bogart, there would have been others who would have responded, "Yeah, but the guy was Duke Mantee." Now, truth to tell, Bogart's portrayal of that hard boiled gangster in "The Petrified Forest" was more than a little mannered, really the work of an actor without much experience before the camera. He brought over some things that had gone over for him when he played the role on the stage--the crabbed way he held his hands, the visual snarl of his facial expression--but they were a little too big for the film medium. It was an undeniably compelling performance, however, and he dominated every scene he was in.

However much some executives wondered whether he had the goods, there was always Duke Mantee to confound them. Either that was a fluke or he really had something. He hung around, playing leads in programmers and heavies in better pictures, learning his craft and, more importantly, learning how to be "Bogart." When he got his break with "High Sierra" and "The Maltese Falcon," he was ready.


4:23 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Richard M. Roberts points out the joys of MGM's Nick Carter series starring Walter Pidgeon:

Hey There John,

Linda and I discovered those MGM Nick Carters last time TCM ran all three of them in one night and loved them. I had seen them on Walter Pidgeon's Filmography for years and generally avoided them because A. they were MGM programmers and I have a general allergy to their series pictures, and B. I had an allergy to Walter Pidgeon as I had seen too many of his pictures with Greer Garson. But Pidgeon has begun to grow on me as I began to see more of his early films (who knew he sang?) and his later films(including an odd Italian comedy he did with Toto in 1961 called TWO COLONELS that is surprisingly charming and remember him as the coke-head pickpocket in HARRY IN YOUR POCKET?) and saw him less stick up his butt than he is with Garson.

For an MGM series, the Carters were as close as that studio came to rivalling Columbia, 20th Century Fox and RKO for a fun B Detective (Thin Mans don't count, and they got wimpy the minute the kid showed up) and it's a pity they didn't go on with them after Pidgeon moved on to better things, they could have had Edmund Lowe or heck, even Tom Conway at that juncture (wasn't he doing support in MGM stuff then?) carry on with it.


4:26 AM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

Watched the three Nick Carter's last week. Lotsa fun. And, of course, Metro's "B" pix look like "A" features.

I agree with Mr. Abbott. Mr. Meek is delightful.

7:10 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Not a hair piece. That was Bob's hair. As for Clampett grabbing credit he was not due we have only to look at his films to know he was due that and more. He put the LOONEY into LOONEY TUNES and the MERRIE into Merrie Melodies.

Bob also went out of his way to be of help to other people. He was a great help and a great friend to myself and many more.

1:11 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016
  • October 2016
  • November 2016
  • December 2016
  • January 2017
  • February 2017
  • March 2017
  • April 2017
  • May 2017
  • June 2017
  • July 2017
  • August 2017
  • September 2017
  • October 2017
  • November 2017
  • December 2017
  • January 2018
  • February 2018
  • March 2018
  • April 2018
  • May 2018
  • June 2018
  • July 2018
  • August 2018
  • September 2018
  • October 2018
  • November 2018
  • December 2018
  • January 2019
  • February 2019
  • March 2019
  • April 2019
  • May 2019
  • June 2019
  • July 2019
  • August 2019
  • September 2019
  • October 2019
  • November 2019
  • December 2019
  • January 2020
  • February 2020
  • March 2020
  • April 2020
  • May 2020
  • June 2020
  • July 2020
  • August 2020
  • September 2020
  • October 2020
  • November 2020
  • December 2020
  • January 2021
  • February 2021
  • March 2021
  • April 2021
  • May 2021
  • June 2021
  • July 2021
  • August 2021
  • September 2021
  • October 2021
  • November 2021
  • December 2021
  • January 2022
  • February 2022
  • March 2022
  • April 2022
  • May 2022
  • June 2022
  • July 2022
  • August 2022
  • September 2022
  • October 2022
  • November 2022
  • December 2022
  • January 2023
  • February 2023
  • March 2023
  • April 2023
  • May 2023
  • June 2023
  • July 2023
  • August 2023
  • September 2023
  • October 2023
  • November 2023
  • December 2023