Archive for April, 2020|Monthly archive page


In Uncategorized on April 4, 2020 at 11:46 pm
i just watched the incredible, touching new doc What Remains Behind, about Natalie Wood by her daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner – which in almost every way is pretty definitive, out in May,  at which time I will review it in depth, Screenshot 2020-04-04 at 6.05.46 PMand I highly recommend it….

Cabin Fever Film Festival: MARKED WOMAN (1937)

In Uncategorized on April 4, 2020 at 4:44 am

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This is, without a doubt, my favorite Bette Davis film. What perpetually astounds me is the fact that more aren’t familiar with it, and it is never cited as one of her beloved go-tos. With a tough, ripped-from-the-headlines script by Robert Rossen and strong, unfussy direction by Warner’s reliable, uber-savvy and underrated  Lloyd Bacon (42nd STREET), it’s superior to most of her films, save her work with Wyler and, of course, ALL ABOUT EVE and a truly heroic Davis here is at her least affected, most human, hip,  and intelligent. She’s mad-sexy in it, too, helped by a flatteringly soft, banged coiffure and Orry-Kelly’s slinky slutwear, for, although the Hays Code made Rossen identify her and her ingratiating coterie of  working girl roommates (Isabel Jewell, trashy as usual, Mayo Methot, over the hill and desperate, Lola Lane, ditto but more resigned and Rosalind Marquis, who sexily sings the film’s theme “My Silver Dollar Man”) “club hostesses,” they are, in reality, high class prostitutes. Davis is so good at it, skillfully plying her trade in dresses that sparkle with sequins and swing with beaded fringe, the cynosure of all club eyes when she enters the room with THAT walk (really revealed for the first time, career-wise here, in all its singularly imitable, ambulantly loping glory), seducing clients with her  whip-speed smarts and champagne-bubbly sense of fun, instead of just t&a, both of which she has in abundance, anyway, that I don’t think there’s a whore to match her in all American film until Jane Fonda in KLUTE 35 years later.

Jane Bryan, so touching as Davis’ innocent, doomed sister in the film, was the diva’s special protegee, also appearing in a key role in The Old Maid two years later. She was to never have a good a part as this, however, and she retired in 1940 for a life of comfort and prominent Republicanism as the wife of Justin Dart, the Rexall drugstore magnate.

That same year, 1937, over at RKO, Davis’ dramatic rival, Katharine Hepburn, was herself  living in the midst of a true sisterhood, but of actresses, and these two endlessly watchable films comprise a wonderful pair of feminist bookends to a particularly memorable movie annum, which also produced gems like The Awful Truth, Make Way for Tomorrow, Easy Living, History is Made at Night, You Only Live Once, Camille, The Good Earth, Lost Horizon, Dead End, The Hurricane, Stella Dallas and Swing High, Swing Low.


watch here:


Cabin Fever Film Festival: ROMEO & JULIET (1936)

In Uncategorized on April 3, 2020 at 9:07 pm


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Many have long dismissed this version as ‘too studio-bound’ or even, wrongly ‘too stagey’ and always, always, ‘The leads are too old.” Excuse me, but when you have the full panoply of brilliant resources of the greatest movie studio which ever existed, working overtime to bring Shakespeare to the screen for years, with just the right director (George Cukor) and producer (Irving Thalberg), a legendary cast of ‘codgers’ like Leslie Howard, John Barrymore, Basl Rathbone, Edna May Oliver, C. Aubrey Smith, Violet Kemble-Cooper, etc., with the production design overseen by perhaps the greatest scenic artist of them all, Oliver Messel (with a costume assist from Adrian), choreography by Agnes DeMille and a refulgent score by Herbert Stothart,  how could it be anything but brilliantly cinematic? Which it most definitely is; with some of the most thrilling duel scenes ever caught on film, it’s one of the most beautiful black and white movies ever lensed, with William Daniels providing its rich, velvety cinematography.

As for the fulcrum of this rich tapestry of a production, Mrs. Thalberg aka Norma Shearer, 35 at the time of filming, well, suffice it to say that she looks like she stepped out of a pre-Raphaelite masterpiece with a coiffure inspired by Fra Angelico, and – as much as her acting talent has been maligned for generations – to show that she indeed had  the chops for this role, just watch her potion scene, which I don’t think has ever been bettered by anyone, all of it done in one thrilling unbroken, long take. She had assiduously studied the role for monthswith both Constance Collier and Francis Robinson Duff (Hepburn’s teachers) and, with Cukor’s careful, loving guidance, I think she triumphed.

postscript: another reason I wanted everyone to see this is for the plague scenes. Hollywood – I know, yes, but they do convey the horror of what it once was like to go through what – blow me down! – the entire world is experiencing now.


watch here:

Cabin Fever Festival: ANN VICKERS (1933)

In Uncategorized on April 3, 2020 at 3:55 pm
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Ann Vickers (1933), intelligently directed by John Cromwell, is a largely unknown pre-Code classic, with Irene Dunne going from unwed pregnancy to a career as a prison supervisor to an advocate for prison reform. It spanned the years from WWI to the Depression. Forget the sentiment of a dead baby and failing marriage, or becoming crippled as a result of rushing for a booty call, or winning the West through the great Oklahoma land rush, Irene Dunne gave her greatest performance here, of a radiant understated intelligence. (Her scene, invoking the baby she decides to abort, is absolutely breathtaking and, throughout the film, she enjoys an extraordinary, mature romantic and intellectual chemistry with Walter Huston, almost unique in American cinema.) For her, the great Howard Greer provided a beautifully understated, elegant wardrobe that was every bit as practical as it was casually glamorous.

Cabin Fever Festival: TONIGHT IS OURS (1932), Claudette Colbert’s Most Glamorous Film?

In Uncategorized on April 2, 2020 at 9:59 pm

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Who better to inaugurate this series of cinematic rarities for the homebound, i.e., EVERYBODY, but one of the greatest stars (and actresses) the screen has ever known, Claudette Colbert, who probably made more purely entertaining movies than anyone else.

Here she is, with a properly ardent Fredric March, in a super glam vehicle adapted from a Noel Coward original, given the full panoply of Paramount at its peak, in terms of photography (Karl Struss), art direction (the brilliant Hans Dreier) and an absolutely drool-inducing wardrobe by Travis Banton, who broke down this temperamental star’s aversion to fripperies like ruffles, bows, fur trim and glitter, and turned her into one of the chicest ever to grace the silver screen.


p.s. NO ONE made a better Pierrot than she!


watch here:








Cabin Fever Film Festival: FOUR FRIGHTENED FILM (1934)

In Uncategorized on April 2, 2020 at 9:25 pm

Screenshot 2020-04-02 at 5.34.10 PMHi as we are all having to be hunkered down and some of you may be sick unto death of endlessly rewatching your same old favorites, I will be posting rarities for you, like this Cecil B. DeMille, filmed on location in Hawaii,  which is never shown for reasons of political correctness. It stems from the early 1930s Paramount school, which often specialized in a certain surreal wackinesss and, believe you me, there have been few films as wacky as this one.  Eerily enough, bubonic plague sets this wild romp in motion, which also features lots of shots of Caludette Colbert’s usually verboten right side of her face (shes supposed ti be a plaun Jane schoolteacher in the early scenes before a Sheena of the Jungle transformation!), as well as Mary Boland, hilariously trying to teach birth control tonative islanders…yes, you read that right:


watch here: