The Golden Age of Hollywood

A companion thread to my "What's the Last DVD You Purchased?" thread. I thought it might be fun to discuss what we all are watching or have recently watched. Below will be my first post in this thread.

Kevin

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I'm curious what you'll think of it.

Last night I watched Road to Rio on my new DVD player. Unfortunately, it has no way of changing the aspect ratio. I will have to endure distorted images when I use this thing. It's still worth it to be able to watch movies anywhere. It's region-free, which is important to me because my collection includes many DVDs I bought in Europe.
Road to Rio has Gail Sondergaard as a villainess who hypnotizes people with a strangely mesmerizing stone she wears around her neck. She wants Dorothy Lamour's character to marry her son, and there are some mysterious papers which must not be found by the Perfecto until the wedding, as that would foil her nefarious plans. The funny thing about the movie is that you never find out what the plans were or what is in these papers. Not that it really matters when you have Bing and Bob singing and cracking jokes, and Dorothy Lamour looking gorgeous (even with a stretched aspect ratio).

I'm not sure if I could bear it if my DVD player couldn't change the aspect ratio.  Still,  we are well used to having our films stretched, or tops and bottoms cut off of the image when watching on British TV.  I love all the 'Road' movies and indeed any of their solo post-1940 films while they were still under contract to Paramount.  The exception, I think, is The Road to Hong Kong (1962) which was a) not made by Paramount and b) the only one to have the prefix 'The' in the title.  That one was pretty dreadful, and I think the best that you can say about it is that it was 'strained.' x

I thought it was very unfair that they took Dorothy Lamour out of the lead in the last Road film and replaced her with Joan Collins. I assume the studio execs thought Dorothy was too old, but she still looked great, and Bing and Bob were no spring chickens anymore, either. The old double standard. For that reason, I don't much enjoy The Road to Hong Kong. I recall one scene, though, that made me laugh. It was when Bing and Bob replaced the chimpanzees in the space capsule, and they were being force-fed bananas. Simple slapstick comedy, but it worked on me.

I'm settling down to my work with, as usual, a movie on in the background. I'm watching The Seven-Year Itch, which I haven't seen in quite a while.

It was fun to see The Seven-Year Itch again, although it made me crave potato chips and champagne.

I'm trying to decide what to watch tonight. There are so many choices.

I'm watching a mystery-comedy from 1935 starring Robert Young and Constance Cummings, called Remember Last Night? This is my third attempt at this film. On the surface it seems like my kind of movie, but for some reason I can't stay focused on it.

It starts with a group of silly society folks having a party and acting like children with behavioral problems. They gleefully break glassware and crockery for no reason, ruin someone's precious pocket watch, fire a cannon, and whatever destructive thing they can think of just for fun. They are all doing their best to get rip-roaring drunk.

There are already signs that there is some bad blood running through this group of partiers. There are some shady business dealings, some debts, and some rivalries. Young and Cummings seem to be the only ones who are happily married.

The murder hasn't happened yet, but I'm already having trouble keeping the characters straight. Maybe that's why I couldn't get through this movie the first two times.

By the way, Anthony, Arthur Treacher is in this as a butler.

"The murderer is in this room. The murderer of Victor Huling is..." (BANG!)

Gee, I never saw that happen in a movie before.

The butler (Arthur Treacher) comes into the room and with great dignity says, "Someone is on the phone for you, sir."

"Well who is it?" "Someone said I was not to tell anyone." "Well is it a man or a woman?" "It would appear to be, sir." "Is it Billy Arliss?" "Yes."

I made it through this time, and it was pretty entertaining. A few more times and I'll understand the plot. LOL

I had a rare treat last night. I watched a David Niven film I had never seen before, called Almost a Bride (a.k.a. A Kiss for Corliss). It stars Shirley Temple. The other actors were people I didn't know. I watched it in bed and enjoyed it a lot, especially David Niven, which will surprise no one who knows me at all. He always plays his part superbly. In this film, he's a wealthy and charming roué who has just divorced his third wife.

Shirley Temple's adult roles were not particularly impressive. This was her final screen role (1949), and she seemed to be finally growing out of the child persona and into the young woman persona. Her character was still young, but there were moments when you could see the possibilities. I wish she had continued in film. I think she needed a movie like The Great Man's Lady, where her character's whole life is told in flashback, from poor beginnings to elderly benefactress. If she could have carried it off, it would have helped the public detach from their image of her as a child actress. Just a thought, and it's too late now.

 have two two movies to report on this week!  I know!  There hardly seems time but it's true!  Two whole movies!  Anyway, here goes:

First up is Service De Luxe (1938).  I watched this after Rosie reported on it the other day.  It is a romantic comedy which features the first feature film performance of Vincent Price.  And they gave him the leading man part!  That was a heck of a gamble, but it seemed to have paid off as Price was reasonably self-assured and confident in his role, as was Constance Bennett, who had appeared in some forty feature films before this.  Indeed, Miss Bennett had spent the last few years (1934-1938) appearing mostly in comedies.  In this film, Miss Bennett runs a company that provides any and every service for her clientele - generally men - who are completely incapable of looking after themselves.  She meets Price on a boat, but he's different...he hates being pampered, having left behind five aunts, and expects women to fulfil the classic stereotype of the meek, obedient and subservient servant that men generally expected at that time.  She changes, he changes, they meet in the middle, and...I'll not tell you the ending!  Ha ha!  Can you guess?  Anyway, the script, by Gertrude Purcell and Leonard Spiegelgass, was fair; not brilliant, not awful either.  I watched it on Sunday night and now I cannot remember most of the dialogue.  However, there were one or two little elements to the story that surprised me:

First off was Mischa Auer's character as a cook who befriends Robert Wade (Price) and then pretends to be a prince to get the daughter of the wealthy gentleman (Charles Ruggles) who is going to finance the tractor Wade has come to New York to build in the first place off Wade's back because she (Joy Hodges) wants to marry Wade.  With me so far?  Joy Hodges' character is dreadfully annoying, but I guess she is supposed to be.  Auer has to cope with a number of strange occurrences, including the other bizarre device which occurs right at the end so I'll not mention it, but those who saw it (Rosie) will know what I mean.  Charles Ruggles, normally so reliable, seems to fall a little flat in his characterisation of the financier; one almost has the feeling that it is his film debut, not Vincent Price's.  I do appreciate that Ruggles' character is supposed to be a caricature of an incompetent man, but in my view, he gets it all wrong.  

I did enjoy Service De Luxe, but it is nowhere near a classic of its genre.  It was more than a year before Price acted in front of the camera again (The Private Lives of Elizabeth & Essex), which is odd because he was just about the best thing in the film.  

The second film I watched was the strangely-titled Go-Get-'Em, Haines (1936), a comedy/crime/mystery b-movie which came from Republic Pictures.  William Boyd played Steve Haines, a reporter who is determined to solve a murder that the police evidently cannot do by themselves.  Sure, the plot creaked, the dialogue almost dropped off the screen, and the acting from all of those bar Boyd was seemingly phoned in.  In short, if it were not for William Boyd, this film would have been terrible.  And Republic repaid his performance by sending him to Paramount to star in the first of sixty consecutive films as Hopalong Cassidy! Indeed, Boyd never played another character again.  What a waste!  Still, Boyd became indelibly associated with his portrayal of Cassidy, and this performance as Steve Haines is mostly forgotten, which I think is a terrific shame. x

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