Thursday, April 30, 2020

Movie Review: Extraction

Michael's Movie Grade: C

The style outshines the substance in this enjoyable but forgettable Netflix movie.

What keeps the bland story from falling flat is that the main two characters are pretty likable. Tyler Rake (as if we are going to call him anything but Chris Hemsworth) doesn't have much to his personality, but he is simply quite cool thanks to Chris Hemsworth's natural charm. He may not be a character who film buffs could discuss to much length or one that especially stands out among the great action hero characters, but the point is we like him and root for him. Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) provides us with the movie's strongest emotional center and even if the story is slight and cliché, I couldn't help but feel sorry for this poor kid. Helping out is that Hemsworth and Jaiswal have excellent chemistry together.

 The action scenes are for the most part very good. They are fast paced, violent and all together fun. They are well shot and staged and truly give action fans all they could want from this type of a movie. The climactic action scene is excellent and quite intense and action fans will love it.

However the well done action scenes and good performance can't help this movie overcome its most problematic fault. That is that it really drags in the middle. As much as I enjoyed how this movie started and how it ended, I admit my mind kind of drifted towards the middle as I got a little bored as the film began to feel too repetitive and its faults became more apparent. Luckily the film rectified this as it went along by topping what it had done before with a fantastic climax. Perhaps this film could have worked better at an hour and a half instead of the near two hour running time it has. The story was pretty minor and the more repetitive and bland parts could have been worked out with the simplistic story still making sense.

This movie tries to be a John Wick film, but it simply falls quite short of that goal. Still with all its faults it is worth watching for the charisma of the two main actors and a really fun climatic action scene.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Silent Films on TCM this May

Hello again my friends and fellow silent film lovers. Once again here is a list of the silent films on TCM this coming month.

Sunday May 3rd

Body and Soul
(1925) Director: Oscar Micheaux. Staring Paul Robeson and Marshall Rodgers. 9:15pm Pacific. 12:15am Eastern.

Wednesday May 6th

The Dragon Painter
(1919) Director: William Worthington. Staring Sessue Hayakawa and Toyo Fujita. 5pm Pacific. 8pm Eastern.

Piccadilly (1929) Director: D.A. Dupont. Staring Gilda Grey and Anna May Wong. 6pm Pacific. 9pm Eastern.

Sunday May 10th

Steamboat Bill Jr.
(1928) Director: Charles F. Riesner. Starring Buster Keaton and Ernest Torrence. 9:30pm Pacific, 12:30am Eastern.

The Great Buster: A Celebration (2018, documentary about silent film star Buster Keaton) Director: Peter Bogdonavich. 6:45pm Pacific. 9:45 Eastern.

Sunday, May 17th 
Shoes (1916) Director: Lois Webber. Starring Mary MacLaren and Harry Griffith. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern.

 Sunday, May 24th

(1927) Director: William A. Wellman Starring Clara Bow and Charles "Buddy" Rogers. 9:30pm Pacific. 12:30am Eastern.

Sunday, May 31st

The Big Parade
(1925) Director: King Vidor. Starring John Gilbert and Renee Adoree. 3am Pacific. 6am Eastern.

He Who Gets Slapped (1924) Director: Victor Seastrom. Starring Lon Chaney and Norma Shearer. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Harry Langdon: The Hal Roach Talkies

After buying and watching the new DVD set of Harry Langdon’s talkie shorts for the Hal Roach Studios, I was impressed with just how much I enjoyed them. After all these films have a horrible reputation and many film historians have had little nice to say about them. Leonard Maltin even called them “undeniably the worst two-reelers ever made.” As much as I respect and appreciate Leonard (I am a huge fan of Leonard and he was a huge influence on me creating this blog) I couldn’t disagree with him more on this. Not only do I think these are not “the worst two-reelers ever made” but I think the best of them are pretty darn good. There are many moments that are completely delightful. For instance his energetic performance of Frankie and Johnny in The Fighting Parson (1930) or his brave capturing of dummies in The Big Kick (1930). A film like The Shrimp (1930) (where a science experiment  gives him the courage of a bulldog) is incredibly clever in both premise and execution. The very funny The Big Kick has Harry remain silent for the first half of the movie, letting his beautiful pantomime skills shine. Even when the character first speaks, we can’t hear it as it is drowned out by a noisy car engine for the purpose of a great gag. In the films where Harry gets to speak a great deal of his dialogue will be very funny to some while alienating others (I personally find it very funny). The reason is that it is very rambling and repetitive showing how his character’s not too bright mind tries to make sense of the world around him (something he could never do). I can hardly think of another comedian who would dare to do this to the extent Harry does. This is as risky and experimental as you can get in a two-reel comedy. Not only does it make me laugh but I completely respect Harry for having the audacity to even attempt it. None of this is to any way suggest that these films are completely carried by Harry. The supporting casts are often excellent. Included in some of these movies are two actors who are rightfully treasured by many comedy fans, Thelma Todd and Edgar Kennedy. They are of course delightful here as always. Nancy Dover is however just as delightful. She proves to be the perfect co-star for Harry and the two are just a joy to watch together. Now keep in mind that these are still not perfect films and are not as great as his best work at Mack Sennett or First National, but they are certainly a lot better than they are often given credit for and are often pretty darn good on their own merits.

The DVD set includes two shorts in which the soundtrack was unfortunately lost to make up for this, the movies have subtitles. While this is certainly not the perfect way to watch them (Too Hot To Handle (1929) is definitely too dialogue heavy to have a full effect without the sound of voices)), it makes you appreciate that you are able to see them at all. Also included are some commentaries by Richard M. Roberts and a Spanish language version of The Big Kick. I highly recommend this set to all movie fans and remember to make up your own minds about these films instead of instantly buying into their bad reputation. You can purchase it here.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Tom Mixville

Hello my friends, I love westerns as I am sure many of you do. Along with country music, they have helped give me a fascination and love of all things cowboy and western. It is true that many of these movies give us a very romanticized of the west, and that is especially true of the films with movie cowboys like Tom Mix, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Yet when I watch many of these films, I become like a little kid simply being drawn in by the figures I see on screen and having a desire to be a cowboy just like them. This was the way many kids (and even some adults) of the era would become watching these movies and I often join them. This may not be the real west, but it doesn't matter it is real to us.

The following 1921 article from Filmplay Journal talks about the similar effect Tom Mix had on movie fans of the time. If you have trouble reading any of the following pages click on them and use your touch screen to zoom in.

-Michael J Ruhland

Lon Chaney Changes his Mind About Talkies

Hello my friends like many of you love Lon Chaney. There are few actors who define what the silent screen was more than him. His acting style is perfectly suited to silent movies. His movies show us that silent film acting was a true artform and he was a master. It is not like Kathy Selden said in Singin' in the Rain (1952), " I mean they don't talk, they don't act, they just make a lot of dumb show." Lon obviously expressed himself visually in a way that transcends words.

All this does bring up a question though, what were Lon's thoughts on talkies. Luckily there is the following 1930 article from Talking Screen Magazine. This article mentions that Lon Chaney's first talkie would be The Unholy Three (1930). It would also be his last, as he would die seven weeks after its release. If you have trouble reading the following pages, click on them and use your touch screen to zoom in.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Cowboy Church #54

Hello my friends and welcome to another service of Cowboy Church.

Lately the official Gene Autry YouTube channel has been posting song clips from the movie serial The Phantom Empire (1935). Strange does not even begin to cover this classic movie serial. It combines Gene Autry's country music and cowboy persona with corny action packed sci-fi, and it is just as weird as that sounds. However it is filled with so much corny fun that many film buffs (including myself) love it. Of course being Gene Autry there is little doubt the music is great, and that is why I am loving watching these musical clips on YouTube. Today's musical selection begins with Gene Autry singing Uncle Noah's Ark in clips from this serial. Next is The Monroe Brothers with their 1937 recording of I am Ready to Go. This is pure toe-tapping bluegrass gospel music at its best. This is followed by Roy Rogers with Peace in the Valley. Next comes Johnny Cash with the self-penned He'll Be a Friend. This song is a very important one for us believers, reminding us that there will never come a time when God will not be there with us every step of the way. Whenever we feel that we are alone in this world, we can remember that we never are because God is always there and as Romans 8:28 says "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Despite Johnny writing this song himself, many of the message is one Johnny would have to remind himself of in his darker moments. However as anyone who knows Johnny Cash's story knows, it is a story of how God will never abandon us and no matter how dark the roads are, he is always there to lead us back to where we need to be. Johnny had done so much wrong, yet God not only redeemed him, but used his story and music to bring many others to Christ. If Johnny can be used by God and truthfully call himself a Christian then we can too. This song comes from Johnny's 1959 album, Hymns by Johnny Cash. Johnny had wanted to be a gospel singer before he ever made music his career. Yet when he came to Sun records he was told gospel wouldn't sell like rock and roll or country music, so at Sun Johnny mostly recorded country and rock songs. However when he moved to Columbia, he was free to record as much gospel as he wanted. His first album for Columbia (The Fabulous Johnny Cash) would feature a good share of gospel music and his second would be this full gospel album. While making these Cowboy Church posts, I have grown a fondness for Skeeter Davis' gospel music. Her voice is perfect for country gospel songs and her choice of these songs was often excellent. Next is Skeeter's lovely 1967 version of No Tears in Heaven. In remembrance of the great Harold Reid of The Statler Brothers who passed away yesterday, next are four gospel classic performed by The Statler Brothers. These are Love Lifted MeStanding on the PromisesThe Old Rugged Cross and On the Jericho Road. They were one of the all time great musical groups and while we on Earth will miss him, I know for sure we will see him in Heaven someday. Love and God's peace to his friends and family and for those who also believe it is great that they can take comfort in the same. Luckily the world will always be blessed by their great music. Today's musical selection ends with The Sons of the Pioneers' 1937 recording of Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life- of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion. Proverbs 28:1
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Numbers 23:19
 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

I have not come to call righteous people, but sinners, to repentance. Luke 5:32

No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well! Luke 13:3

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:9

For the wages of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. 1 John 5:13

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10:13

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Isaiah 23:3

Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. Job 5:17

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Thank you for joining me come back next week for another service of Cowboy Church. Happy Trails to you until we meet again.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #68

Hello my friends and happy Saturday morning. Once again that means it is time for some classic cartoons.

First up is a classic Mickey Mouse cartoon, The Little Whirlwind (1941). This film marked a milestone in Mickey's movie career. In Mickey's earliest cartoons there was a real playfulness and silliness to Mickey's character. In fact this movie shows that personality trait in abundance, with this  being the mouse's defining trait in this film. However by the late thirties this playfulness seemed to disappear. Walt wanted to return to this earlier version of the character and with The Little Whirlwind, the studio began to bring this back to the character. The storyline itself is actually based off a small gag in Playful Pluto (1934) in which Mickey is raking leaves and a little whirlwind blows it away. Much of the story is also borrowed from an unfinished Mickey cartoon called, Mickey's Elopement. This includes some of Mickey's clowning around proving that the idea to return to this version of Mickey was around before The Little Whirlwind. The film features a new design for Mickey with three dimensional ears and a sillier more cartoony look. The following is an exhibitor's review from The Motion Picture Herald, "Little Whirlwind, The: Walt Disney Productions - Here is a wonderful piece of animation. A baby whirlwind and its mother or father (I couldn't tell which one) cause Mickey Mouse plenty of trouble. It was well liked but did not get the laughs that Disney usually manages to receive. I do not know why. Running Time, 8 minutes. - W. Varick Nevins III, Alfred Co-op Theatre, Alfred, N.Y. Small college town and rural patronage." To see who animated what in this movie it can be found if you click here.

With Gene Deitch's recent passing, I have been watching his cartoons a lot lately. One of my favorites is How to Win on the Thruway (1962). This is one of his four "self-help" films.

Next comes one of the Walter Lantz Pooch the Pup cartoons, Pin Feathers (1933). This film has less of the absurd over the top humor that is in much of the other entries and there is actually a bit of cutesiness which is rare for the series. However like the rest of the series this movie is still quite a bit of fun. An exhibitor's review in the Motion Picture Herald called this "the best cartoon we have got from Universal in a long while."

Being a silent movie fan and a cartoon fan, naturally a series like Chaplin and Co. (2011-2012) would capture my attention. This was a French animated TV show staring an animated version of Charlie Chaplin. While obviously not as great as an actual Charlie Chaplin movie, this is an enjoyable little series.

Now to go from a cartoon based off silent movies, to a cartoon that is a silent movie, here is a Jerry on the Job cartoon called Pigs in Clover (1919).

As many of you know the early Betty Boop cartoons were the most pre-code cartoons of the pre-code era. Even often pushing the boundaries of what you could get away with even in the pre-code era. An especially potent example is Betty Boop's Big Boss (1934). This movie features Betty Boop using sex to get ahead in the work place, far from the family friendly Betty cartoons with Pudgy that would be turned out after the production code was in full effect. One must imagine that this movie raised some eyebrows when originally released. One exhibitors review from the Motion Picture Herald stated "Pass on this one. Just some more of Hollywood's dirty ideas." A review in The Film Daily was more positive calling the film "Good and jazzy with a modern touch." I think this big boss could take Betty's Boop-oop-a-doop away.

Thanks for joining me come back next week for more animated treasures. Until then peace, love and cartoons.

 -Michael J. Ruhland

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Movie Review: The Willoughbys

Michael's Movie Grade: B

A quirky and fun animated movie for Netflix.

While this movie is definitely faulted it has a simple but effective charm, I found irresistible. Despite this film's acknowledging itself as weird and quirky the basic story is not all that new. However as all movie fans know, what makes a film work or not work is how its story is told and this story is told very well. It is no secret that most family orientated stories have their share of  darkness along with the light. The difference with this is that it plays the darker parts of its story for absurd comedy, helping the movie keep a light and quirky tone throughout while still embracing the darker points. This gives the film a bit of a unique feel that definitely elevates it. Still while much of The Willoughbys is absurd, it never goes too far to make the characters feel unreal. The Willoughby children are delightful with personalities that embrace the strangeness of the story, while still remaining completely relatable. These are the perfect characters for this type of story as they make the story have an emotional impact while not taking away from the film's quirkiness. This film is also helped by some fine animation and a lovely original song (I Choose (also enhanced by Alessia Cara's lovely singing voice)).

As stated before this is definitely a faulted movie. The humor itself is certainly hit and miss with more than a few jokes completely falling flat (though there are also some very funny moments here as well). The worst of this is the narration. This movie is narrated by cat (seemingly only for the reason of being strange) who is not only voiced by Ricky Gervais but adopts the personality of the comedian. Problem is that for being such a comedy driven character, he is simply not funny. In fact he takes away from the film more than anything else. Unlike much of the rest of this movie, this character feels like the filmmakers trying too hard to make a quirky movie. This narration also too often calls attention to the film's own quirkiness instead of letting the movie speak for itself. There are also failed attempts to insert this cat into the story so we can feel that he played an important role in the story, but the movie would have worked just as well without him. Also with this film's episodic nature, it can feel a little overlong at times, especially when we get far enough in to guess how it will end. Still all these faults are overcome by the simple charm of this movie.

While I certainly miss going to the movies it is delight to see a new movie that is very delightful.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Harold Lloyd and the Talkie Screen

Hello my friends. Do movie comedians come finer than Harold Lloyd? Maybe there are some that are either equals or come close to him, but there is no one better. I have watched nearly all of Harold's silent features enough times to have them memorized and I am sure many of you have done the same. To be honest I have watched his talkies much less often, but whenever I watch one I wonder why that is. They are very fun movies that show the actor's talent to its fullest. True they may not always reach the perfection that his best silent films did, but why should we hold that against movies that are good in their own right.

The following 1930 article from Talking Screen Magazine, talks about Harold Lloyd adapting to the new art of talking films. If you have any trouble reading these pages click on the page and use your touch screen to zoom in.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Sunday, April 19, 2020

RIP Gene Deitch

On this past Thursday the one and only Gene Deitch passed away. Like many animation fans I am very saddened by this news.

Like almost all of you my introduction to Gene Deitch was his Tom and Jerry cartoons. Growing up I admit that I wasn't a fan. My opinion was simply that the Hanna-Barbera cartoons were much funnier and that these were just plain weird. When I discovered his work at Terry-Toons, I was surprised by just how good these films were. These films were very experimental and had a style completely separate from what anyone else was doing. As well as their artistic brilliance, these cartoons were extremely entertaining and are such a joy to watch. Someone needs to make a DVD or Blu-Ray set of Gene Deitch’s work at Terry-Toons available. I would watch them all the time. Anyway as I started to learn more and more about his work as a filmmaker and the less than ideal conditions his Tom and Jerry films were made in, and then re-watching his Tom and Jerrys, I actually began to really enjoy them. They were very different from my beloved Hanna-Barbera films but they were darn good cartoons in their own right. Still even for those who don't like his Tom and Jerrys, his other work remains brilliant and he was a true animation legend. We lost a truly great filmmaker.

Of course the best way to celebrate the man is to watch his films and you can do that below.

-Michael J. Ruhalnd


Cowboy Church #53

Hello my friends and welcome back to another service of Cowboy Church.

Today's musical selection starts off with a 2018 song by Joanne Cash (Johnny's little sister) and Christian rock band, For King and Country, called Til Kingdom Come. Like Johnny, Joanne had spent much time backsliding from God's word before truly giving her life to him. She had been a drug addict and alcoholic. Pastor Greg Laurie's excellent Johnny Cash biography Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon quotes Joanne as saying "After I asked Jesus to come into my heart, I prayed, and I felt this heat come up my body to the end of my fingertips. I knew I was born again I knew I was saved. I knew I was gonna go to Heaven. I knew I would get to see Jack again (her brother who had died at 15 years old in a saw mill accident). I was just elated ... I then started praying for Johnny." Though she may not be as well known as her big brother, she has spent much time sharing the word of God through her music.  This is followed by The Monroe Brothers with their 1937 recording of I Have Found the Way. This is followed by Charley Pride with the gospel classic Angel Band in a recording from his 1971 gospel album Did You Think to Pray. This is followed by The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1937 recording of Lord You Made This Cowboy Happy. This song shows what The Sons were able to do better than any other band, they could create lyrics and melodies that brought such beautiful romantic visions of the west to mind that you truly felt you were transported there. The song was written by one of group's founding members, Bob Nolan, who in my mind is one of the all time great American songwriters, creating pure poetry with each of his songs. At this time the group was made up of Leonard Slye, Bob Nolan, Tim Spencer, Hugh Farr, Karl Farr and Lloyd Perryman. This would be the last year for Leonard Syle to be a member of this group as he would change his name to Roy Rogers and start a movie career, however he and the band would remain close and appear in many movies together and record many songs together. Next comes a lovely song sung by the lovely Skeeter Davis, Do You Know My Jesus. This version comes from her excellent 1967 gospel album, Hand in Hand With Jesus. Skeeter's voice is just so pure and beautiful and I can't get enough of her great gospel music. This is followed by country music and movie cowboy, Jimmy Wakely with In a Tiny Little Voice in a Tiny Little Prayer. Then comes Willie Nelson with Shall We Gather at the River. This comes from his incredible 1976 gospel album, The Troublemaker. This album is a must for any fan of Willie, country music or gospel music. Today's musical selection ends with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and their 1973 recording of Jesus in the Morning.

Today's movie is the silent film version of The Ten Commandments (1923). Like the more famous 1956 version, this film was also directed by Cecil B. DeMille. What amazed me when I first watched this movie is not only how well the special effects stand up today, but that some of them are even better than what was seen in the more famous remake. People who except this film to be like the later movie will be shocked as it differs in a large way. This is that the movie is essentially broken into two large segments. The first is the biblical story of Moses and the second is a modern day story about how God's commandments are still relevant today. Besides this movie being a silent, I think that this is another reason why it is less remembered today than DeMille's later film. Going forward to the modern day of 1923 makes this film feel like it was made then, rather than that it could have been made anytime. I love both versions and I hope you will agree with me.

Note: To watch the whole movie click here.

The following is a page from a 1925 issue of The Exhibitor's World Herald talking about the movie's long record breaking theatrical run. If you have trouble reading click on the page and use your touch screen to zoom.

In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. Exodus 15:13

In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. Luke 6:31

Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Proverbs 19:20

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. Proverbs 17:17
 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:7

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

The LORD is my strength and my defense ; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. Exodus 15:2

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be save. Romans 10:13

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. 1 John 5:13

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Romans 10:9-10

Thank you for joining me come back next week for another service of Cowboy Church. Happy Trails to you until we meet again.

-Michael J. Ruhland


Saturday, April 18, 2020

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #67 - Silent Edition

Hello my friends and happy Saturday morning. Once again it is time for some classic cartoons. This week's Saturday morning cartoon post is completely dedicated to cartoons of the silent era.

Today's watching starts with a delightful Walt Disney Oswald. The film is The Ocean Hop (1927). Disney fans may notice that the villain here is none other than Pete, Mickey Mouse's later nemesis. Pete is the oldest Disney cartoon character still in use today dating back to the Alice Comedy, Alice Solves the Puzzle (1925). The character would appear in many of Walt's silent films. Pete here is clearly a bear, as he was in all of these early cartoons. By the time of the Mickey Mouse cartoons, he was changed into a cat. The reason for this being that Walt did not own the bear version of Pete, just as he did not own Oswald. Because of this the bear version of Pete continued appearing in Universal cartoons as late as 1937, with the cat Pete appearing in Disney cartoons at the same time. The ending of this movie may leave some wondering what happened to Oswald's dog friend. The answer is in a scene that was cut from the film for later re-showings and is lost today. In the original version the movie ends with a joke where the dog falls into a taxi and comes out of the exhaust pipe as a string of sausages.


Speaking of dogs turning into sausages, that idea plays a major role in the next cartoon, A Mutt and Jeff film titled, Dog Gone (1926).

Next comes an early Charles Mintz produced Krazy Kat cartoon. Like the sound Krazy Kat cartoons, he produced (that I often share on this blog), the story barely resembles George Herriman's comic strip. However this movie does have Krazy looking much more like Himself or Herself (though later Mintz cartoons would clearly define the character as a male, the strip never gave away Krazy's gender). Like the later films this is an enjoyable little movie on its own terms. However it is disappointing that we couldn't have gotten a film version of Joe Stork from the comic strip. So enjoy, Stork Exchange (1927).

Here is an earlier cartoon of Krazy Kat, not produced by Mintz that bears a stronger resemblance to the comic strip. This film is from the International Film Service. Owned by William Randolph Hearst, this company mostly made short animated films based off of comic strips that were controlled by Hearst. The film is The Bugolist (1916) and the credited animator is Frank Moser, who will be immediately recognized by Terry Toons fans as he directed and animated many of the cartoons there.


Next is another cartoon from the International Film Service, The Spider and the Fly (1918) starring Happy Hooligan.

Next comes a really enjoyable Out of the Inkwell cartoon, Modeling (1921).

Afterwards comes one of Sid Griffith's Jerry the Troublesome Tyke cartoons, 
Great Expectations (1927).  

Today's cartoon selection ends with a delightful movie from Russia combining live action and animation, One of Many (1927). This film is a tribute to all things movies, especially those coming from Hollywood. As such there are many treats for silent film fans throughout this movie. Thank you to Lea Stans and her excellent blog, Silent-ology for introducing me to this film.

Thank you for joining me come back next week for more animated treasures. Until then Peace, love and cartoons. 
-Michael J. Ruhland

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Oswald's Greatest Season

As I have mentioned many times on this blog, I love the  Walter Lantz Oswald cartoons. It may not be a popular opinion but I can't help if I simply love these little movies. It is always an exciting find for me when I find anything on this subject like the following 1934 article from Universal Weekly. If you have any trouble reading just click on the pages and use your touch screen to zoom in.

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Happy Birthday to Me

Hello my friends, guess what, it is my birthday. Yay!

While I will not be spending my entire day at home (as I work in a grocery store and therefore am not able to work from home), I have come to the realization that after work I am going to have to spend the rest of my day at home instead of being out and having birthday themed adventures. However this hardly means that I can't have birthday themed adventures in my own house. While I can't except my friends to be waiting to greet me with a big party when I get home, I can celebrate with my movie-land friends, with some birthday themed films like the following.

Despite me being born on this day, it wasn't exactly a great day in history in other respects. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and the Titanic sunk for instance.

(Yes... So much of this movie is extremely racist and hard to watch but this scene and others stand out as great filmmaking of the highest quality, it is equally possible to hate the racism while loving the filmmaking)

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings wrote a song about the terrible things that happened on my birthday.

On the bright side one of the all time great country singers was born today as well, Loretta Lynn. Speaking of Loretta, Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980) still stands as one of the best country music movies ever made.

Here is a scene from my personal favorite movie, Show People (1928).

This is not related to my birthday but lately I have been reading the new book Chase! A Tribute to the Keystone Cops (edited by Lon & Debra Davis, you can buy it here). The more I have been reading the more I have been watching the Ketstone films and the more I am realizing that these classic shorts are just plain fun movies.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

So happy birthday to me. Yay!

-Michael J. Ruhland

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Vintage Advertisements For Easter Parade: Get Your Vitamin MGM

For so many of us film buffs, Easter Parade (1948) is the must watch movie today. The film is as delightful as movie musicals get and I love every second of it. It features Fred Astaire and Judy Garland at the top of their game and it is hard not to wish the duo made more films together after watching it.

Here are some vintage advertisements for the film. Many of these show MGM tooting their own horn as they loved to do. 
Showman's Trade Review, 1948
Boxoffice, 1948

Boxoffice, 1948
Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin, 1948
Boxoffice, 1948
The Film Daily, 1948
Showman's Trade Review, 1948
The Film Daily, 1948
Showman's Trade Review. 1948

When MGM's The Three Musketeers (1948) outperformed MGM's own Easter Parade, this just made Leo the Lion toot his own horn even more.

Boxoffice, 1948
Boxoffice, 1948

Now as a bonus let us sing along to some of the songs from this delightful movie.

Happy Easter my friends.

-Michael J. Ruhland


Cowboy Church #52 - Easter Service

Hello my friends, happy Easter and welcome to this year's Easter Service of Cowboy Church.

Today's musical selection begins with Gene Autry performing Peter Cottontail in a scene from the movie, Hills of Utah (1951). This song was written by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins, the team that wrote the Christmas classic Frosty tod he Snowman. Because of Gene Autry's success with such Christmas songs as Here Comes Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, the songwriting duo decided that Gene Autry was the best singer to introduce a song about a holiday figure. When Gene recorded the song it went up to #3 on the Country Charts. Naturally the song would have to appear in a Gene Autry movie. To remind us why we truly celebrate Easter, Johnny Cash will then sing He's Alive from his 1979 album, A Believer Sings the Truth. This song tells of the story of Peter and how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus affected him.This song brings us a message of hope in the most hopeless of times. When Jesus was crucified, things seemed as dark and hopeless as they get, yet he raised from the dead and brought great joy and forgiveness to all who accept him as their lord and savior. If he can overcome the grave, how much more can he overcoming anything we might be worrying about right now. This is followed by The Sons of the Pioneers with their recording of All God's Chillun Got Wings. Afterwards is Dale Evans with Grace Greater Than Our Sin. While not specifically an Easter song, this is about as fitting for the occasion than any other song I can think of. How can you have Christian music for Easter without having, The Old Rugged Cross? The answer is you can't. So here is Alan Jackson singing it. The song itself dates back to 1913 and was written by evangelist, George Bennard. Actually the first verse was written in 1912. It was written while Bennard was a part of a series of revival meetings in Albion, Michigan. He was worried about the complete disregard for the gospel around him and wrote this verse as a repose. Of writing it Bennard said, "I seemed to have a vision ... . I saw the Christ and the cross inseparable." The song wouldn't be completed for several months, when he was leading meetings at a local church in Pokagan, Michigan. He played it for Rev. Leroy (the sponsoring pastor) and his wife, Ruby Bostwick, both of whom found themselves moved to tears. It was then incorporated into a service at that church on June 7, 1913. The song has the same effect today as it must have back then. Next is The Charlie Daniels Band with a very appropriate song for Easter, He's Not Here from their 1997 gospel album, Steel Witness. Like He's Alive this song is about how since Jesus overcame the grave he can easily overcome anything this world can put in our way. The ending was written when Jesus dies on the cross. We know who will win in the end, because he has already overcome anything the enemy can do. When we are faced with any trial all we have to do is remember that Jesus is no longer in the grave, he is with us always. Next comes Skeeter Davis with Try Jesus. This self-penned song comes from her 1973 album, The Hillbilly Singer. Then Lefty Frizell sings a very Easter appropriate song, We Crucified Our Jesus. This recording comes from 1953 and reminds us just why Jesus died on the cross. Today's musical selection ends with Wanda Jackson with Let Go... Let Jesus In.

Next is one of Billy Graham explaining what Easter is.

Next comes a classic Christian movie that I love dearly and is perfect for Easter, From the Manger to the Cross (1912). I have written about this film previously on this blog, click here to read that.

Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” Matthew 20:17-19

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. Mark 8:31

A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:29-30

As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ” Mark 16:5-7

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14:36

Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is Jesus, the king of the Jews. Matthew 27:37

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” Matthew 28:5-6

He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Luke 24:6-7

They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. Luke 24:2-3

With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all. Acts 4:33

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Romans 8:34

Thank you for joining me come back next week for another service of Cowboy Church. Happy trails until we meet again. 

-Michael J. Ruhland

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #66

Hello my friends and happy Saturday Morning, once again it is time for some more classic cartoons.

Since Easter is tomorrow, what better way to start this post than with an Easter cartoon. Today's first film is a Silly Symphony called Funny Little Bunnies (1934). This cartoon does not feature much of an actual story beyond the idea of bunnies getting ready for Easter. However people at the time did not seem to mind this at all. The following is a review from The Film Daily, "This is a likely entry for the best short of 1934. While it may appear that its vogue would be more or less limited to the Easter season because its purely imaginative substance deals with the manufacture and decoration of Easter eggs and bunnies by a colorful rabbit crew, the splendor and variety of coloring and the highly diverting action lift it far above any seasonal appeal. Musical accompaniment is pleasing." The following is a review from The Motion Picture Herald, "Unusually clever, highly entertaining, especially for the youngsters but potentially equally enjoyable for adults, this number of the Walt Disney Silly Symphonies pictures in the inimitable Disney cartoon fashion the manner in which the bunnies, in their woodland workshop, carve out Easter statues of themselves, paint the Easter eggs, with various colors obtained from the end of the rainbow. In this spring season despite the fact that Easter has passed, the subject is highly appropriate and can not fail to meet with the favor of the entire audience, anytime, anywhere." The cartoon also won the gold medal for "Best Animated Film" at the Venice film festival in 1934. Still as is always the case not everyone was impressed. An exhibitors review from The Motion Picture Herald was not very positive stating about Walt Disney, "He'll never make another 'Three Little Pigs.' In 1935 this movie was part of a four week run of Disney cartoons. Here is The Film Daily talking about that, "Starting April 4, Walt Disney productions, released through Untied Artists, are being featured on the Trans-Lux Theater program for four consecutive weeks. Opening with 'The Tortoise and the Hare,' the next three programs feature the following Disney productions: 'Mickey's Man Friday,' 'Funny Little Bunnies,' and 'The Band Concert,' Disney's first Mickey Mouse subject in Technicolor." One thing I love about the color Symphonies is that they never take color for granted but instead always make sure it is used to full effect. That is definitely true of this cartoon. This movie was reissued to theaters on April 7, 1950.

 As I have mentioned before on this blog, Paul Terry considered the Heckle and Jeckle films to be the best cartoons, he produced and I wholeheartedly agree. Here is a typically good example of why these little movies are so much fun, House Busters (1952). I love how no motivation at all is needed for why Heckle and Jeckle want to wreck the house beyond that they simply enjoy doing so. Because of this we can simply get to the slapstick gags as soon as possible and have tons of fun.

While right now we can not take trips around the world in real life, we can travel to the rest of the world via cartoons. So let's join Cubby Bear and take a World Flight (1933). If this film feels more like one of the early Looney Tunes with Bosko than most Cubby Bear cartoons that is due to the fact that the film is directed by Hugh Harmon and Rudolf Ising who made those cartoons. It must be remembered that this movie was made in 1933 well before the horrors that Adolf Hitler would inflict on this world would be fully known to the filmmakers. Seeing  Hitler cheer on Cubby is still more than a little uncomfortable today. A review in The Film Daily stated, "Nothing new or particularly clever about this one." The following is a review from The Motion Picture Herald, "When Cubby Bear, the Aesop's Fables animated hero, attempts his world flight, and the plane indulges in those antics that only an animated cartoon artist can conduct, the result is a lightly musing cartoon, especially enjoyable for the youngsters. Incorporated are caricatures of the Four Marx Brothers, Chevalier and other cleverly done but no longer new." Notice how the newsboy at the beginning looks more than a little like Bosko. Phileas Fogg would be amazed at just how quickly Cubby can make it around the world.

Next Goofy learns For Whom the Bull Toils (1953).

With Easter tomorrow I feel it is right that this blog post should end with more Easter cartoon fun. So here is the TV Special, Daffy Duck's Easter Show (1980, also known as Daffy Duck's Easter Egg-citement).

Come back next week for more animated goodness. Peace, love and cartoons.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Friday, April 10, 2020

Marguerite Clark on Film Acting

Though her name is forgotten even by some silent film fans, Marguerite Clark was a major star in the 1910's. Like Mary Pickford because of her youthful look and small size, she often played children, past the age most actresses couldn't. Movie audiences loved her from the first time she appeared on screen. The reason she is not as well remembered today as Mary is that many of her films are considered lost. What is available for watching though proves that she was a very talented actress with a charming screen presence.

The following is a 1918 article from Photo-Play World that looks at how Marguerite got into the movies and her thoughts on film acting as an art. If you have any trouble reading click on the page and use your touch screen to zoom in. 

A delightful film of hers that is easy to view is Snow White (1916). This was the movie that supposedly inspired Walt Disney to make his film version of the classic fairy tale.

-Michael J. Ruhland 


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Moving Pictures Are Actually Not Bad For Your Eyes

I know many of you have heard the rumors that watching a moving picture is harmful to your eyes. However if you are some one who worried about this the following article should put you at rest. This article comes from a 1915 issue of The Motion Picture Magazine and discusses how Moving Pictures are actually good for your eyes. If you have any trouble reading these following pages click on them and use your touch screen to zoom in.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

How Did They Do That?

Have you ever watched movies from the late 1960's and early 70's, and wondered how they achieved the special effects? Well you are in luck. The following 1972 article from Hollywood Studio Magazine tells us how movies like Kelly's Heroes (1970), Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), The Wild Bunch (1969) and Krakatoa: East of Java (1968) achieved their special effects.

If you have any trouble reading these pages click on them and use your touch screen to zoom in.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Cowboy Church #51

Hello my friends and welcome back to another service of Cowboy Church.

Today's musical selection starts with the Southern Gentleman himself, Sonny James. The song is 'Til the Last Leaf Should Fall. Sonny originally recorded this song in 1955, but would reuse it later as the title track for a 1966 gospel album. Sonny co-wrote this song with Jack Rhodes. Jack Rhodes is best remembered as a co-writer for the country classic, A Satisfied Mind. Johnny Cash in the early years of his music career once asked Sonny James, how he managed to lead a Christian life, with the the temptations and demands of the entertainment world. Sonny responded, "I am not just an entertainer who became a Christian. I am a Christian who chose to be an entertainer. I am first a Christian." These are words all of us Christians should remember. There is no problem with having other passions, but God is to always be first in our lives. Next is Wilma Lee and Stony Cooper performing Walking My Lord Up Calvary's Hill on TV in 1964. This is followed by The Prairie Ramblers 1935 recording of Jesus Hold My Hand. After this comes Johnny Cash and Billy Graham with Preacher Said, Jesus Said. Johnny and Billy were great friends and John often appeared at the Billy Graham crusades and played a major role in leading many people to Christ. This song has Johnny singing with inserts of Billy Graham quoting Jesus. The message of this song was not only timely then as well as timely now. It will always be timely. When things are darkest and we don't know who to believe or trust, we know that we can always count on the words of Jesus Christ to be as true as they ever were. Despite not being better known by the general public, Billy Joe Shaver is one of the most important names in Outlaw Country music. With his 1973 album, Old Five and Dimers Like Me Helped define the sub-genre. As a songwriter he has few equals, and If I Give More Soul is one of his finest works. In many way this song mirrors his life. He searched for happiness in many things but wasn't able to find it until he turned his life to Jesus. Following is The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1934 recording Open Them Pearly Gates For Me. Like much of the work of The Sons of the Pioneers there is some good humor put into this song. This is followed by the Queen of Rockabilly, Wanda Jackson singing I Love You Jesus from her 1973 album, Country Gospel. If you can't guess by that title the album was made up of country gospel songs. Afterwards comes another gospel classic from a major force in rockabilly music, Jerry Lee Lewis. The song is He Looked Beyond My Fault.  This comes from his 1971 gospel album, In Loving Memories. Jerry Lee proves here he can sing gospel music just as great as he does rock and roll. Today's musical selection ends with Ray Price singing Peace in the Valley. This version comes from his 1978 gospel album, How Great Thou Art.

As a bonus here is a 1971 episode of Hee Haw guest starring Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

  So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

 “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:24-31

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Thank you for joining me come back next week for more Cowboy Church. Happy trails to you until we meet again.

-Michael J. Ruhland