Tag Archive for '1950s'

Andy Hardy Comes Home

Andy Hardy Comes Home (5/10/15) TCM (1958 ***) Directed by Howard W. Koch, based on the characters created by Aurania Rouverol, starring Mickey Rooney, Patricia Breslin, Fay Holden and Joey Forman. Middle-aged Andy Hardy returns home to Carvel to buy land for a missile electronics plant but instead of being greeted as a hero, he’s treated like an outsider in his own home town. This film was an apparently failed attempt to reboot the once-beloved Andy Hardy film series that ran (not counting this final 12-years-later installment) from 1937 to 1946. For those of you unfamiliar with Andy Hardy, think of this film as about a middle-aged Archie Andrews going back home to Riverdale. (And if you’re unfamiliar with Archie Andrews, God bless ya, bub.) One of the items on my cinematic to-do list is to someday watch all the Andy Hardy films. I’m sure a lot of people would see that as a waste of time, but for me — even though I’ve only watched a few — they clearly represent an idealized window into a very different time in my country’s history. For what it’s worth, I admired Andy Hardy Comes Home for addressing — to a degree — the changes in the American landscape between 1946 and 1958. At the same time, it probably didn’t go far enough to accomplish its goal of reviving the series.

Artists and Models

Artists and Models (1/2/15) Retroplex (1955 **1/2) Directed by Frank Tashlin, starring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Shirley MacLaine and Dorothy Malone. An artist takes advantage of his sleep-talking roommate to get a foothold in the always lucrative comic book business. Martin and Lewis made a series of 16 films together, and this was their third to last. In many ways, this was a typical film for them, with neither delivering particularly noteworthy performances. The best thing in the film by far was Shirley MacLaine, and one of the requirements of her role was to show off her legs virtually the entire film. There’s a bit of comic book-related historical context that’s actually interesting, and something that contributed to my enjoyment: One of the plot elements of the film centered around a “public outcry” over the sensational material to be found in popular comics of the time. This film, in a not-so-subtle way, poked fun at that McCarthy-ist witch hunt that had peaked with William Gaines’ testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency in 1954.

The Long, Long Trailer

The Long, Long Trailer (12/27/14) TCM (1953 **1/2) Directed by Vincente Minnelli, based on the novel by Clinton Twiss, starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. A woman talks her fiancee into beginning their married life by buying a ridiculously massive and expensive “home on wheels.” I watched and reviewed this film back on 8/23/11 and though I gave it a half-star more than previously, my feelings about it haven’t changed much. I know it was intended to be a feature film comedy vehicle for Lucy & Desi, but the whole film just stressed me the fuck out! My wife, on the other hand, seemed to find it far more entertaining than I did. Could be her stress triggers differ from my own.

Kiss Them For Me

Kiss Them For Me (6/1/14) TCM (1957 **) Directed by Stanley Donen, based on the play of the same title by Luther Davis, which in turn was based on the novel by Frederic Wakeman, starring Cary Grant, Jayne Mansfield, Suzy Parker and Ray Walston. Set in 1944, a navy pilot and his buddies get a 4-day leave in San Francisco. I can’t in good conscience recommend this film, primarily because it’s so slow-moving and talky. However, I respect that it offered a take on military life that I hadn’t seen in similar films. It occurs to me that a lot of films about what it was like to be in uniform during World War II have to strike a balance between lampooning the “everything in triplicate” bureaucracy of Uncle Sam’s military machine and not coming across as unpatriotic. This film certainly did that. It’s also a surprisingly serious film at times, considering it was clearly intended as a star vehicle for Jayne Mansfield and her impressive superstructure. I have little doubt it was marketed as a comedy, but the humor seemed discordant with Grant’s character, who remained dead serious even while wearing a kimono.

Unidentified Flying Objects: The True Story of Flying Saucers

Unidentified Flying Objects: The True Story of Flying Saucers (5/10/14) TCM (1956 **) Directed by Winston Jones, written by Francis Martin, starring Tom Towers, Captain Willis Sperry, Nicholas Mariana, Chief Photographer Delbert Newhouse and Wendell Swanson. The U.S. Public’s U.F.O. sightings from the late 1940s to mid-1950s is seen through the eyes of reporter Al Chop. This is a strange film, and while I’m not sure how widely seen it was during its original release, I can only imagine it whipping the movie-going public into a U.F.O.-sighting fever. Its quasi-documentary approach, in which events were re-staged with a combination of actors and real participants, is a direct antecedent to techniques used in modern reality TV shows. The wooden delivery by non-actors made up most of the film, adding a certain Ed Wood quality to it. The entire 91-minute film was just a lead-up to two very short clips of lights in the sky, the kind of footage that is far more common now. I thought it particularly interesting that the version of the film I saw on Turner Classic Movies, the majority of the film was in black and white, except for those clips, which where shown in color.

Young At Heart

Young At Heart (4/25/14) TCM (1954 **1/2) Directed by Gordon Douglas, starring Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Gig Young, Ethel Barrymore, Dorothy Malone and Alan Hale Jr. An angsty, cynical, selfish dick of a musician enters the bucolic home of a musical family, stealing the heart of one of their daughters and bringing way too much drama. It’s tempting to dismiss this film by saying the best thing about it is its title song, performed by Sinatra and written by Johnny Richards and Carolyn Leigh. Yes, very tempting… It’s worth noting that this 1954 film was a musical-ish remake of the 1938 drama Four Daughters. Also, if you watch this movie and decide its ending feels like a cheat (as I did), it’s because it was not the movie’s original ending. In the original (60-year-old spoiler ahead…), Sinatra’s character dies at the end. As well he should have.

The Bachelor Party

The Bachelor Party (3/22/14) TCM (1957 ***) Directed by Delbert Mann, screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky, starring Don Murray, E.G. Marshall, Jack Warden and Carolyn Jones (Morticia Addams) as “The Existentialist.” The occasion of a co-worker’s bachelor party becomes one man’s night of debauchery and soul-searching. You would expect a film named “The Bachelor Party” to be fun and upbeat, right? Well, imagine the polar opposite of that and you’d have this film. It’s beautifully written, of course, and filled to the brim with observations about the human condition. I find myself hard-pressed to recommend downbeat films that I know are good but not necessarily great. Still, it offers a rare look at life in the 1950s, by the writer best known for his screenplay for Network (1976).

The Best of Mr. Peabody & Sherman

The Best of Mr. Peabody & Sherman (3/22/14) DVD (2012 ***1/4) Based on the characters created by Ted Key, featuring the voices of Bill Scott and Walter Tetley. A genius dog named Mr. Peabody takes various and sundry short trips through time, accompanied by his adopted boy Sherman. This “best of” compilation disc included “15 Improbable Histories” that originally aired as part of the Rocky & Bullwinkle program from 1959-1962. The segments included visits with such luminaries as Benjamin Franklin, Christopher Columbus, William Shakespeare, Ludwig Von Beethoven, Calamity Jane, Jules Verne and Cleopatra. Each short adventure also ended in a pun, ranging in severity from mildly painful to requiring psychiatric counseling. Though I’d undoubtedly seen many of these in my childhood as I woke up before dawn to watch reruns of Rocky and Bullwinkle on Saturday mornings, I actually didn’t watch this DVD until after working on and seeing the 2014 animated feature film. One of the first things I realized while watching the original was just how much of the 1959 introduction to the characters had been used in the modern version. I got quite a kick out of that. Two interesting bits of production trivia I learned not long ago was that the production for the “Peabody & Sherman” segments had been done in Mexico, and the cels were painted using ordinary house paint! At any rate, it was great to see the cartoons again after so many years, and it made me more than a little sad that our updated version failed to find the audience it deserved. I still blame it on the fickleness of the spirit of the times.

The Ernie Kovacs Collection

The Ernie Kovacs Collection (3/22/14) DVD (2011 ***1/4) Directed by various, starring Ernie Kovacs, Edie Adams and Bill Wendell. This 6-DVD, 780 minute collection features a variety of Ernie Kovacs programs from 1951 to 1962. The early days of television was very much like the wild west, and beginning in 1951, Ernie Kovacs was all over the new medium, appearing on-air (often live) multiple hours a day. Over time, Kovacs found his hallmark brand of inventive visual comedy, which culminated in the Emmy Award-winning Eugene specials he did for ABC, the last of which was aired posthumously. I am an unabashed fan of Kovacs, and have been since I first became aware of him when I was a college undergraduate. I felt a kinship with him because of his pioneering efforts to explore the creative potential of the new medium of television, while at the same time producing shows intended to entertain a general audience. He was both video artist and showman. I considered him my idol, and in my own television shows I produced during my three years as a graduate student, I attempted to do the same thing with the new medium of computer graphics. As for the collection, I must admit it was somewhat of a mixed bag. Though it contained some of Kovacs’ best, cutting-edge work, much of what he did was pretty crude by modern standards. In good conscience, I can’t recommend all of the 780 minutes of content to the television viewers of 2014. Hell, I’m a card-carrying Kovacs fan, and I found the pace of some of the shows to be hard to watch. However, I can’t help but hope that maybe there’s some 14-year-old out there who discovers this DVD collection, watches it over the course of a summer vacation and finds himself inspired by one of the true pioneers of the most influential medium of all time.

Road to Bali

Road to Bali (12/12/13) TCM (1952 ***) Directed by Hal Walker, starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. Entertainers George Cochran and Harold Gridley talk their way to Bali (and into trouble) by selling each other as pearl divers. This was the sixth and next-to-last of the Hope & Crosby “Road” movies. It was shot in color and I found it surprisingly entertaining, even sixty-some years after it was first released. One of the hallmarks of the series was the occasional fourth wall fracturing, which worked quite effectively with the “Road to…” style of comedy. It also came in quite handy when Hope’s character Harold Gridley got himself out of a certain impossible deadly situation. Unlike the preceding four films, Road to Bali was shot in color, as was its successor, the final “Road” picture, The Road to Hong Kong, which wouldn’t be released for another decade.