Friday, September 30, 2022

Movie Review: The Good House


Michael’s Movie Grade: C+

An uneven dramatic comedy but one with some really good moments. 

This film works best as a character study. The main character is very relatable and likable but also incredibly flawed. She has had a history of drinking problems but thinks she has a handle on it, even though sometimes it can still get the better of her. Even if you are a teetotaler, it is easy to relate to her because we have all felt feelings of hurt, pain, regret and denial. This movie does a great job of exploring these feelings and making us put ourselves in her shoes. When you reach the climax of the film (which is very well done and a highlight of the film), these feelings all come together very well and you get quite emotionally involved. While the climax does make you wish the rest of the movie was as good, it also shows that the parts of this film that worked really worked. All this is of course boosted by a wonderful performance from Sigourney Weaver, who once again proves what a great actress she is. This is also a beautiful looking film that really captures the beauty of this small seaside town.

The romantic aspect of this movie is pleasant enough. There is nothing great or original about this part of the film. However the clichés and familiarities still have a charm to them because of the great performances, the chemistry and the easygoing quality to most of these scenes.

Unfortunately, the humor in this movie is never as funny as it should be. There are a few smiles, but no real laugh out loud moments. There is also quite a lot of fourth wall breaking with the main character talking directly to the audience, but this doesn't work. It is neither funny or clever and can too often be overly expository. There are times when this can take you right out of the movie. The main problem with this film is that the more serious scenes clash with the more lighthearted scenes, making this sometimes feel like two separate films. The movie tries to be both a lighthearted romantic comedy and a serious character study, but would have been much better if it was one or the other. 

This may not be a great movie, but what it does well really works. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Moran of the Lady Letty (1922)

Note: This post is for National Silent Movie Day, September 29th, a wonderful holiday celebrating all things silent movie related. 

in 1921 (also the year of his breakthrough appearance in Rex Ingram's The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse), Rudolph Valentino had one of the biggest success of his career with The Sheik. This movie proved very popular especially with women. This was hugely due to his Latin lover persona. However the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation (later Paramount Pictures) noticed this image did not have the same effect on most male movie goers. Instead men seemed to find this image a bit off putting. Because of this the studio decided to put him in a role that would appeal more to men in the audience. So Valentino was put into  Moran of the Lady Letty, which was a much more adventure-based film in order to get him a male audience as well. George Melford who had directed Valentino in The Sheik would also direct him here. George Melford might be a name that classic horror movie buffs will recognize as he directed the famous Spanish language version of 1931's Dracula.

Melford had stated in interviews hinted that this movie would show Valentino in a very athletic and almost Douglas Fairbanksian light as he stated "find out what a husky, red-blooded chap he is." Melford also stated that "climbed to the very tip of the mast -- just for exercise. The hard-boiled crew of the ship gasped!" However it is impossible to say if that was actually true. One change was made however to make the role fit more into Valentino's Latin lover image. This was that writer Monte Katterjohn (who also worked on The Sheik) changed the main characters name from Russ Wilbur (the name in the book) to Ramon Laredo. An intertitle early in the film states "rich man's son spends the dash and fire inherited from his Spanish ancestors in leading cotillions."

As the story begins Moran (played by Dorothy Dalton) is happy living with her sea going father and she is love with the sea. Ramon (played by Rudolph Valentino) is however unhappy. He is rich, but his life is sheltered and he craves adventure. However all this changes when Ramon is shanghaied. The ship he is now aboard is ruled by a mean and hate filled captain (played by Walter Long (my fellow Laurel and Hardy fans will easily recognize him)). They run across a burning ship in trouble. The crew mostly just steals goods for them selves. However Ramon saves one of the sailors aboard that ship, more specifically Moran. Raman falls in love with Moran, but the lustful captain has his eyes on her, and Ramon must protect his new "mate".

This is an excellent film. The adventure filled climax is exciting to watch, and easily just as (and in many cases more) compelling than today's special effects filled action scenes. The chemistry between the two leads is fantastic and you really believe that these two grow to care for each other, even with their different backgrounds. The technical film making is also very well done. This film uses color tinting a lot, and extremely well. Color tinting is when the whole screen is tinted a certain color and it was used often in the silent era. While on the boat (except in the cabins) the screen is tinted blue, but the high society functions are tinted brown. This creates a great contrast and makes many of the more adventure filled scenes seem bigger and more exciting. Also the cutting between (slight spoilers ahead) Moran on the boat and Ramon at a fancy party towards the end is extremely effective as it lets us know that they are on each other's minds. The tinting also comes in handy here as it makes us see why the party is less appealing to Ramon. Also with dropping the Latin lover image I think this film is more accessible and enjoyable to many modern day audiences and all those who just don't like his Latin lover image, than most of Valentino's work is.

Despite his excellence in the lead role Valentino did not care for his role in this movie. He preferred playing more exotic types and felt a film like this hurt his Latin lover image. Because of this his later this same year he would play those type of characters again in Blood and Sand and The Young Rajah.

For some extra fun Photoplay Magazine made a text version of this film that tells the whole story (this was a common practice for Photoplay at this time). If you have trouble reading the pages below click on them and use your touch screen to zoom in.


Resources Used

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Movie Review: Cuando Sea Joven


Michael's Movie Grade: B+

A really charming comedy film from Mexico. 

This movie's plot is one that may not be exactly original. An older woman finds herself turning back into her 22-year-old self and gets a second chance at the life she missed out on. However this film stands above many similar movies because there is such a real undeniable charm to it and this charm lasts for the film's whole run time. The main characters are all simply delightful and while they each ay have their faults, there is a real likability to all of them. Over the course of the film, the characters feel more and more real to us. This is why even during the most cliché and predictable moments (which there are quite a bit), you never stop caring about them and the charm never wears off. The way the characters relate to and interact with each other is also wonderful. The scenes between the now younger grandmother and her grandson are simply delightful and really brought a smile to my face. This film is laugh out loud funny. Though this movie has all the typical jokes you might expect, they work exceptionally well here. Even though these may not be original jokes, the delivery, writing and characters are all so delightful that they are really funny. I expected to smile at this movie ore than actually laughing, but I ending up laughing a whole lot watching this film. What an incredibly pleasant surprise that was.     

This is simply a delight of a movie. 

Movie Review: The Silent Twins


Michael's Movie Grade: B+

An often hard to watch but very moving biopic of writers June and Jennifer Gibbons (who hardly spoke to anyone but each other for nearly 30 years). 

This film is very different from your standard movie biopic. There is a shroud of mystery that hovers over the subjects of this film and there is nobody (but the two real people) who will ever know what was going on through their minds at any time. This film keeps that shroud firmly in place and never attempts to explain the actions these girls take. Instead we simply watch the story unfold and make of it what we will. This is the type of movie two people can watch and have completely different perspectives on. However this is the way the film should and has to be. To give any sort of explanation or have any deep character study would miss the point and do a great injustice to the real story. It would also take out just what makes this movie so compelling. Yet despite this (or perhaps because of this) there is an emotional power that is very effective, and the ending scene hit me hard in a way I did not expect. Many of these scenes can make the film hard to watch as they can make you feel emotions that you may not be willing to feel at times. This is also true as the movie moves into darker places as the film goes on. The subject matter (I don't wish to delve deeper into what this subject matter is as I feel it is best to approach this film knowing as little as possible) takes us to some dark places that are uncomfortable to go to, but that are necessary to make this film so effective. This movie is also enhanced by wonderful stop motion scenes (by Barbara Rupik, who has directed and animated some great short films (this is her first time working on a feature film)) based off some of the girls' stories. These scenes are in many ways delightful to watch but there is also a darker edge to them that grows all the more prevalent as the film goes on. 

This movie does have its faults though. The movie can drag at times, especially during the middle portion, and therefore it feels longer than it actually is. This movie can also have quite a bit of dialogue that feels forced or awkward. This is quite understandable and easily forgivable as this is the first English language feature by the brilliant Polish director, Agnieszka Smoczynska (if you have not seen her horror-inspired fairy tale, The Lure (Córki dancingu) (2015), you really should). The same can be said about many other great filmmakers' first time making a film in a new language. 

This is an excellent film, even if it can be hard to watch at times. 

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Cowboy Church #189

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

Today's musical selection begins with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with Thank You God. This is the A-side of a 1956 Little Golden Record. The B-side was Let There Be Peace on Earth.

This is followed by Roy Clark with What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Despite being Joseph Medlicott Scriven's most famous composition, when he made a collection of his writings entitled Hymns and Other Verses it did not appear. It has been assumed that the reason for this is that he probably wrote it for his mother when she was sick and not for the public. It is believed that it is through his mother that the hymn reached the public. It first appeared in 1865's Social Hymns, Original and Selected credited as anonymous.

Next comes The Carter Family's 1938 recording of Walking in the King's Highway

This followed by The Sons of the San Joaquin with their cover of The Sons of the Pioneers song, Read the Bible. This song was written by Tim Spencer, one of the Pioneer's founding members. The Sons of San Joaquin' version comes from their 1997 gospel album, Gospel Trails

Up next is Lorretta Lynn with Gethsemane. This song comes from her 1970 gospel album, The Gospel Spirit. This song speaks about how perfectly Jesus' death and resurrection fulfilled the words the prophets had written long before it came to be. 

Afterwards is Marty Robbins with There's Power in the Blood. No matter how much we may love something this world has to offer us, none of it can ever compare to the power in Jesus' blood. For nothing else has the power to give us salvation or peace in times when we feel peace is impossible.

Today's musical selection ends with The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1937 recording of What You Gonna Say To Peter. I don't know about you but it always amazes me knowing that one day, when I go to heaven, I am going to see so many of the men and women I have read about in the Bible. It is a humbling and wonderful thought. Of course, nothing though will compare to seeing my lord and savior Jesus Christ. This song was written by the Pioneers' own Bob Nolan, who also sings lead on this song.  

Today's movie trailer is for the wonderful Howard Hawks western, Red River (1948), starring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift. As film lovers know, Howard Hawks and John Wayne were a match made in heaven and the films they made together show the talents of both men to perfect advantage. They made five movies together were Red River (1948), Rio Bravo (1959), Hatari (1962), El Dorado (1966) and Rio Lobo (1970). Though John Ford is the director most often associated with John Wayne, Howard Hawks is often the second most thought of director for John Wayne movies. 

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

Motion Picture Herald, 1948

Now for sermon from S.M. Lockridge.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6–7

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him. Exodus 15:2

For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory. Deuteronomy 20:4

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. Psalms 119:28

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

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:6

Thanks for joining me. Come back next week for another service of Cowboy Church. Happy trails to you until we meet again. 



Saturday, September 24, 2022

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #192

 Note: Due to technical difficulties, this post is up a little late. 

Hello my friends and happy Saturday morning (?), it is once again time for some classic cartoons. 

Today's cartoon selection begins with a wonderful Chuck Jones directed cartoon, The Ducksters (1950). This short film features Daffy Duck in quite a villainous role, of the kind that would be more common for him in the 1960's then in the 1950's.   

The Return of the Pink Panther (1975) not only brought director Blake Edwards and actor Peter Sellers back to the Pink Panther franchise but also brought the Pink Panther cartoon character back to the feature film series as he would star in the opening credits sequence for the first time since the first movie. He would appear in the opening credits for every Pink Panther feature film after this as well. This opening credits sequence features an animated version of Inspector Clouseau chasing The Pink Panther for the first time. This would become a reoccurring theme for the opening credits of these movies. This marks the first of two times the opening credits would be done by Richard Williams (many of you may know him for being the animation director for Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)) instead of DePatie-Freleng. Also working on this sequence is Ken Harris (who worked on many of Chuck Jones’ Looney Tunes cartoons). 

While many cartoon fans praise the Donald Duck cartoons directed by Jack Hannah, I feel the Donald shorts directed by Jack King do not get enough praise. They are often really funny. An especially good example is Chef Donald (1941). I love the use of I Got No Strings from Pinocchio (1940) in a particularly funny spot. 

Up next comes Flip the Frog in The Soup Song (1931). This movie has everything I love about Flip the Frog cartoons in it, especially the incredibly odd sense of humor and logic that could only come from an early 1930's cartoon.

Now it is time for a commercial break.

Ever wonder how cartoons are mde well wonder no more. Van Bueren Studio explains the whole process to us in the short In a Cartoon Studio (1931). 

Now we join our favorite rodent superhero in Super Mouse Rides Again (1943). You will quickly notice the cartoon you watch below has been retitled Mighty Mouse Rides Again. This was done because the character's name in his earliest films was Super Mouse. However to avoid confusion with a comic book character named Super Mouse, the character's name was changed to Mighty Mouse, which is a better name anyway. Naturally for this movie's TV airings the title was changed to have the current name of the character. I love how this version still keeps in our hero autographing his name as "Super Mouse." 

Today's cartoon selection ends with Woody Woodpecker in Fair Weather Fiends (1946). This movie was directed by Shamus Culhane. Culhane had worked at Disney, Warner Brothers and many other classic cartoon studios, however in my opinion his best work is seen in the films he directed for Walter Lantz studio. These may not only be some of his best work but they are arguably some of the finest films to come out of the Walter Lantz studio. Fair Weathered Fiends may not be my favorite of the bunch but it is still a throughly delightful cartoon, that I could watch many times and not get tired of. 

 Thanks for joining me. Come back next week for more animated treasures. Until then may all your tunes be looney and your melodies merry.


Movie Review: Confess Fletch


                                                       Michael's Movie Grade: B

                                              A surprisingly funny modern-day update of the Fletch character.
Fletch was not a franchise that I personally excepted to ever come back with a new movie. When I heard there was going to be a new Fletch film, I had very low expectations thinking this would be a cheap cash in on people who have nostalgia for the Chevy Chase films. I was definitely pleasantly surprised to find that this is actually a pretty funny movie. This movie has a different take on the Fletch character than the Chevy Chase films (in fact Fletch doesn't use any disguises in this movie) and that is the perfect way to approach this film. As talented as Jon Hamm (who both stars in and produced this movie) is no one could do what Chevy Chase always did so well. This movie is instead constructed very well to Hamm. He truly shines in this role and is simply a delight to watch. He delivers all the great Fletch wise cracks perfectly and when the film calls for physical slapstick he certainly delivers. He may not be Chevy Chase, but he still shows that he was perfectly cast. The wild antics in this film may be toned down from the previous movies in the franchise, but there is still a lot of great humor. The one liners are wonderful here as are the great running jokes such as Fletch's "mastery" of the Italian language. The physical slapstick is also often fantastic and the scene in the tunnel as well as the fireworks scene cracked me up. The mystery element is also pretty good. While this may not be one of the great movie mysteries, it does its job quite well and has enough good twists and turns to be involving. 

Unfortunately as great as Fletch is, pretty much all the supporting players are simply one note caricatures for Fletch to play against or to move along the mystery. None of them are that memorable and often times when they get their own comic moments, they can fall flat. 

All in all this movie is a pleasant surprise. 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Movie Review: Don't Worry Darling


Michael's Movie Grade: B

A fantastic build-up that leads but a completely disappointing pay off. 

Olivia Wilde's directorial debut was the really fun raunchy comedy, Booksmart. Her follow-up film could not be more different. This is a dark psychological thriller with little humor in it. However both films show a real talent from directing from the popular actress. This movie does a wonderful job of building suspense and a real sense of dread. The visual representation of the town of Victory is very idyllic and yet at the same time haunting. This creates a wonderfully effective feeling of dread, as you never know when something is going to happen to upset this idyllic state. We have grown accustomed to the idea that anything idyllic is too good to be true and a movie like this perfectly plays with those notions, so that even as the film starts we have a feeling of uncomfortableness. This uncomfortable feeling grows as parts of the idyllic world start to slowly peel away. This is done so well as it is not done all it once but little by little, so that are sense of suspense and dread increases as the film goes on. All of this is helped by the wonderful visual style, that combines the 1950's with the feeling of a modern thriller. The bad dreams are especially wonderful visually and these scenes will stay with you after the film is over. This movie is also helped by starring the wonderful Florence Pugh. She is one of my favorite current actresses and this movie certainly shows why. Her performance perfectly carries you into the emotion of each scene. Oliva Wilde originally wanted to star in this movie herself but after seeing Florance in Midsommar changed her mind and thought Florance would be perfect for the role. It is easy to see why she felt that way watching this movie. 

This film does have a huge problem that befalls many movies like this. That is when you spend a whole film building up to something that something turns out to be a real let down. That is certainly true here. I was loving this movie up until this reveal but the reason behind everything that happens in this movie is terrible. Not only is it completely clichéd and overused, but it also is not very interesting and makes no sense in the context of the story. This is one of those twists, that makes you question even the motivations of some of the characters and raises just as many questions as it answers. Unfortunately since this twist is what the rest of the film was leading up to it can't help but leave a major black mark on an otherwise great movie. Still I can't deny how much I loved the film before that horrible turning point. 

If you are able to forgive a horrible payoff, the rest of this movie is fantastic.   

Classic Short Film: The Lost Laugh (1928)

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Movie Review: God's Country


Michael's Movie Grade: A+

A simply wonderful film.

A woman moves to a small town and finds hunters parking on her property. She tells them multiple times not to park there, but they keep parking there. As this goes on, it ends up going so far as to make her not feel safe in her own home. In many ways this plot sounds like a fairly standard suspense movie, but it is anything but. In the hands of director and co-writer Julian Higgins (with her first feature film since 2004) this movie becomes so much more. This film takes a hard look at such subjects as racism, sexual harassment, remaining silent about injustice, loss of loved ones and more. It looks at these subjects in such an intelligent and thought-provoking way that it gives you much to think about once you leave the theater. Yet miraculously none of these feels forced into the movie but seems to flow naturally from the story and characters. Speaking about characters, the main character here is fantastic. I love how even though this movie takes her side on many of the issues, she is not treated as a perfect character, in fact far from it. There are times when we are left wondering if the actions, she takes are morally correct. Whether or not we should stand behind these actions or very them as wrong acts by a good person pushed too far is completely up to the viewer and with that I can see many people having very different takes on the same scene with this film and that is a sign of great art. Yet even if we do not agree with her actions, she still never becomes too unlikable to care about her and be invested in what happens to her. Even if this film is not a typically suspense film, the suspense scenes here work very well. This is not a fast paced movie, but the slower pace fully works to its advantage. The slower pace creates a real sense of atmosphere and dread, that makes the suspenseful moments all the more effective. While at first this movie may seem too slow to some, as the film goes on it stops feeling slow. This is not because the pace picks up (in fact the pace remains slow throughout), but because you get so invested in the story you don't notice the slow pace anymore. This movie is also helped but an incredible performance by Thandiwe Newton. She brings an incredible amount of humanity and power to this role. This may be the finest role yet in her career.

A must see. 

Movie Review: Medieval


Michael's Movie Grade: C

An okay historical action film. 

This film is based off of the life of the brilliant Czech military mind Jan Žižka. However, it is probably best if you know about him before watching the movie. This is because the movie provides us with little to any backstory, leaving us not to understand the historical importance of this man until we read it in the epilogue after all the action is done. This is not to say the film is not entertaining in its own right. The main two characters while not having much depth (which can be off-putting when they are based off real people) are likable enough and easy to root for. There is also a wonderful chemistry between Ben Foster and Sophie Lowe. The two work very well together and are a delight to watch sharing the screen. It is during these moments that the film really comes to life and frankly whenever the film turns away from them, it can get a little boring. This movie is also a wonderful looking film. Obviously, a lot of care was taken into making this movie look as atmospheric as possible. Some of these scenes have a haunting and powerful look to them that really makes some cliché scenes work quite well. The action scenes (while not for the squeamish) are very capably done but lack the excitement that could really make them stand out. 

This movie is entertaining, but it is one that you will forget about not too long after you watch it.  


Overlooked Classics: The Tale of the Fox (Le roman de Renard) (1937)

Though Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is often times called the first animated feature, that statement is actually false. I am not saying this to deny the historical importance of Snow White as that film is still extremely important and an incredible movie, but rather to give attention to what has come before. The Tale of the Fox was the sixth animated feature film released and was released just eight months before Snow White. The animated features before Tale of the Fox include El Apostle (1937)Without a Trace (1918)The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)Peludo City (1931), The New Gulliver (1935), and The Tale of the Priest and of His Workman Balda (1936)Tale of the Fox was the first animated feature to come from France.

This film was directed by Ladislas Starevich and Irene Starevich. Ladislas Starevich was one of the greatest pioneers in animation history. He was one of the earliest directors to define animation as an art instead of just a novelty. He worked mostly in stop motion animation, creating such brilliant shorts as The Cameraman's Revenge (1912)The Mascot (1933)The Frogs Who Wanted a King (1922) and The Insects' Christmas (1913)The Tale of the Fox is his only animated feature though he did direct a live action feature called The Night Before Christmas (1912). Irene Starevich was his wife. It is hard to say how much or what she contributed to this film because she worked on very few films and in all those films she worked with her husband. Other than this movie the other films she co-directed with her husband were The Mascot's Wedding (1935) and Fétiche en voyage de noces (1936).

This was completed in 1930, but due to audio problems it would not be released until 1937.

The story of this film centers around a fox named Reynard that tricks other animals and then eats them. This causes the king (a lion obviously) to pass a law saying that animals cannot eat other animals (making an exception for himself of course). Reynard does not listen to these orders and the king decides to have the fox arrested (something easier said than done).

This film is quite easily a masterpiece it has a brilliant and very funny sense of dark humor. The animation is downright incredible. It is amazing to think that this is the first feature film to be completely done in stop motion (The New Gulliver featured a mixture of live action and stop motion), because it is so incredibly well done here. The story is great. The pacing is fantastic. Most of all though these characters really come to life on the screen. This film is a great work of art and a fantastic beginning to French animated features.

Resources Used
Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animation by Giannalberto Bendazzi

Monday, September 19, 2022

Movie Review: See How They Run


Michael's Movie Grade: B

A really fun whodunit.

Though this film kids the various clichés of whodunit mysteries, See How They Run is quite a good whodunit itself. This movie keeps you guessing who the culprit is with many well handled red herrings to throw you off track. Still when the killer is reveled it makes a lot of sense and every comes together very well. True it is a little over the top but that is the nature of the game and a huge part of the fun. Our main characters also add to the charm of this movie. While it would have been easy to have just made one the straight man to the other's more comic persona, that is not what is done here. Instead you have two very well thought out and human characters who are stuck working together, despite one not wanting to work with the other. The relationship between the two is a bit rocky (to say the least), but there is more to it than simply one guy being annoyed by another's antics. This relationship also evolved over the course of the movie in a completely delightful and believable one. Adding to this is that Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan have wonderful chemistry together. 

The humor in this film can be hit and miss. However when it is funny, it is very funny. The best humor comes from the character of Constable Stalker, the rookie female officer who is being made to work with the more experienced Inspector. This character is not dumb, but is too eager to make good and nervous that she finds herself jumping to conclusions too quickly. This leads to a lot of really funny moments that not only make us laugh but endear the character to us as well. Also her movie references and corny little jokes are delightful. Much of this is due to Saoirse Ronan having a great comedic gift that she is really able to show off here. The humor that doesn't work so well is the more self-referential and meta humor about these types of whodunits. These jokes almost always fall flat and are simply not as clever as they are supposed to be. Sometimes such as the opening of the film and the ending, this type of humor can be a bit too much and distract from the story itself. 

All in all despite its flaws, this is a really fun movie. 

Overlooked Classics: Platinum Blonde (1931)

 I have said a few times that one of my favorite things about watching old movies is finding these great gems that are heavily overlooked today but happen to be just as great as any of those that have gone down in history as classics. Frank Capra's Platinum Blonde very easily fits in this category. This film is just as funny, smart and simply fun to watch as many of the later Capra classics.

One should remember at this time; Frank Capra wasn't the household name he would become. Capra's big breakthrough film would be released three years later with the surprise smash hit, It Happened One Night (1934). Frank Capra had made his feature length directorial debut directing Harry Langdon in the great silent comedy The Strong Man (1926) and continued to direct many features before It Happened One Night

This film however was not originally intended for Capra though. It was originally intended for Edward Buzzell, who is probably best remembered for directing the Marx Brothers in At the Circus (1939) and Go West (1940), as well as The Song of the Thin Man (1947). By the time Frank Capra joined the production Dorothy Howell, Jo Swerling and Robert Riskin's script was nearly finished. Capra would later write off this film, but it has also been speculated that this was because he had so little to do with it. This was however still the first time Robert Rimskin and Frank Capra would work on the same film. This turned into a good relationship as he also was a writer for It Happened One NightMr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) and Meet John Doe (1941).  

Despite such well-known names as Jean Harlow and Loretta Young appearing in this film's cast the real star of the movie is Robert Williams. Despite much talent his career would never take off because of his sudden death shortly after this film's release (he had appendicitis). He only appeared in 6 other known films in his career, The Vengeance of Winoma (1914), Thoughtless Women (1920), Two Masters (1928), The Common Law (1931), Rebound (1931), and Devotion (1931). As you can tell from these years even with a appearances in silent films, his film career was really just beginning to become a regular job in 1931. This will seem unfortunate to many movie fans as he does a great performance here. Jean Harlow was not that big of star as she would later become. She did have some great performances in big name films such as Hell's Angels (1930) and The Public Enemy (1931), but she was mostly cast due to her looks and had a while to go before becoming a big star. However, she certainty was on her way. This film contains an amazingly good performance from her. Despite how good she was in this film though Frank Capra did have problems with her. The main one being she couldn't pronounce "library" right, and she was playing a high society woman. It took fifteen takes for her to say this word right. This film is also rounded out with many other great actors of the time. One who does an especially good job is Walter Catlett (my fellow Disney lovers may know him as the voice of Honest John in Pinocchio (1940)). Also, great here is Halliwell Hobbes as the butler, and Lousie Closser Hale as the snobbish mother. In fact, the whole cast is just great.

The story centers around a young reporter, with a quick wit and just as quick of a mouth, named Stew (played by Robert Williams). This young reporter works with a young woman named Gallagher (played by Loretta Young), who has more than a bit of a crush on Stew. However, during a story, he falls for a rich young socialite named Ann (played by Jean Harlow). He marries Ann. However, this marriage isn't quite happy for him. Ann tries to make Stew fit into high society and a reporter for a rival newspaper (played by Walter Catlett) makes fun of him for not wearing the pants and for being a bird in a gilded cage. A bird in a gilded cage is exactly what Stew feels like, and he needs to find some way out.

This movie is extremely funny, as well as having a delightful story. Much of the humor comes from the clever dialogue that populated many Hollywood comedies of the early 1930's ("Anne Schuyler's in the blue book; you're not even in the phone book. Think that one over... sucker!", "Yeah, I know those bluenoses. Their ancestors refused to come over on the Mayflower because they didn't want to rub elbows with the tourists... so they swam over!"), and is just as funny, smart and unlike anything you hear in today's movies as you could ever want it to be. As stated, before all the cast gave great performances. As well as all this the film just supplies the great sense of pure fun, and charming simplicity that we all know and love Frank Capra for doing.

After an early preview screening the film shortly switched its name to The Gilded Cage. However, it was changed back to Platinum Blonde on September 24, 1931, when it had its last preview showing because of Jean Harlow becoming a bit of a bigger star due to Public Enemy.

The film received decent reviews, but they were far from great.

Resources Used

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Classic Short Film: Ask Father (1919)

Cowboy Church #188


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

Today's musical selection begins with The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1935 recording of One More River to Cross. In a 1976 interview Betty Cox Larimer asked Bob Nolan (one of the founding members of the Sons of the Pioneers), "Bob, talking about the uniqueness of the Sons of the Pioneers, I would have said it was the style. What do you think about the direction of the younger generation of country entertainers? A lot of them really don’t have a style anymore. In fact, a lot of country music itself does not have a style. What do you think about that?" Bob's response was "Well, I think the only thing that they’ve left out is our determination for perfection. You mentioned our breathing. This was marked on the music. See, they don’t pay attention to those little details like we did. That’s the only thing that they’ve forgotten about and if they would take care of a few of the little details they would come up with a style. Towards the last, we were working on slurring our voices all at the same time and trying to get a way of dragging the timing to it, see?"

This is followed by Hank Snow singing I'm in Love with Jesus

Now we join The Petersens with Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior.  This hymn was written by Fanny Crosby (Blessed Assurance, Near the Cross, Take the World, But Give Me Jesus). The song first appeared in Christian Associations' Songs of Devotion in 1870.  Hymnologist, William J. Reynolds told the story how this song was written during Fanny's visit to a prison in 1868 with fellow gospel songwriters, William Bradbury, William Doane, Robert Lowry and Ira Sankey, “After she had spoken and some of her hymns had been sung, she heard one of the prisoners cry out in a pleading voice, ‘Good Lord, do not pass me by’; Following [William] Doane’s suggestion, she wrote a hymn that evening incorporating the line, “Pass me not, O gentle Savior.” Pass Me Not is said to be her first hymn to reach this level of fame.

Next is Roy Rogers singing What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Despite being Joseph Medlicott Scriven's most famous composition, when he made a collection of his writings entitled Hymns and Other Verses it did not appear. It has been assumed that the reason for this is that he probably wrote it for his mother when she was sick and not for the public. It is believed that it is through his mother that the hymn reached the public. It first appeared in 1865's Social Hymns, Original and Selected credited as anonymous.

Afterwards is Bill Monroe with Walk in Jerusalem Just Like John. Though it is unknown who wrote this song, it is believed to be of African American descent. Lizzie Williams, who was a slave during that very dark time in American history, recalled this song being sung at a river baptism. This belief is also supported by the fact that the hymn has been including in quite a few collections of African American spirituals including 1867's Slave Songs of the United States and 1940's American Negro Songs and Spirituals. This song has also been believed to be what was known as a railroad song. This is a song that was sung by railroad workers or other similar workers. The reason for this being that it is structured in a similar matter. The railroad song, Get on Board Little Children was another song Lizzie Williams recalled hearing at the baptism. 

This is followed by Randy Travis with Baptism

Next is The Carter Family with a 1941 recording of Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. This hymn began with a man named Anthony Showalter. As a fan of gospel music and an elder in a Presbyterian church, he held many "singing schools" at various churches in the south. One day he received two letters from former students who were struggling after their wives had passed. To respond to these letters, Showalter consulted scripture. He came across Deuteronomy 33:27, "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." After reading this verse lyrics for a song chorus went through his head and he wrote down, "“Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms; Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.” After using this in the letters to his former students he sent this chorus to his friend hymnist, Elisha Hoffman. In the letter he also wrote, “Here is the chorus for a good hymn from Deuteronomy 33:27, but I can’t come up with the verses.” Hoffman then wrote the rest of the lyrics to which Showalter put to music. The hymn was published in 1887.

Today's musical selection ends with Johnny Cash singing Land of Israel. Recently I went to Israel, and it is a truly magical and life changing experience for a Christian to see the places where Jesus walked and where so many of the Bible stories actually took place. If any of my fellow Christians get a chance to go there, it is an opportunity that definitely should be taken. 

Today's movie trailer is for Disney's Davy Crockett and the River Pirates (1956). Not even Walt Disney had any expectation that Davy Crockett segments on the Disneyland TV show, would be such a major success for the studio. Walt would later recall, "We had no idea what was going to happen to 'Crockett.' Why by the time the first show got on the air, we were already shooting the third one and calmly killing Davy off at the Almo. It became one of the biggest overnight hits in TV history and there we were with just three films and a dead hero." This naturally could not be the end of Disney's version of Davy Crockett (played wonderfully by Fess Parker). These episodes were edited into a feature length film that was released to movie theaters. As well as this Disney made more Davy Crockett adventures for their TV show under the name, The Legends of Davy Crockett. These adventures told of legends involving Davy that may or may not have happened during the times not covered by the original three episodes. Two of these TV adventures were edited into the feature film, Davy Crockett and the River Pirates released in movie theaters.

To read the following article click on the pages below and use your touch screen to zoom in.

Radio-TV Mirror, 1955

Next is S.M. Lockridge with his sermon, The Lordship of Christ.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17

But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Micah 7:7 

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

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Luke 6:46

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8

Thanks for joining me. Come back next week for another service of Cowboy Church. Happy trails to you until we meet again.