Saturday, May 26, 2018

The 2018 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival: Sunday

All too soon it was Sunday, the final day of this year's Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival! Our fun weekend absolutely flew by.

There are only three films shown on Sunday, with the final 4:00 p.m. screening making it easy for those of us in driving distance to make it back home at a reasonable hour. First, though, a day of great viewing!

The morning kicked off with another not-on-DVD film I'd never seen, UNDER THE GUN (1951), a prison film starring noir favorites Richard Conte and Audrey Totter, with good support from Shepperd Strudwick and John McIntire. The introduction was provided by Foster Hirsch, who once again provided notable things to be watching for in the film, such as the glimpses of freedom in the background of the shots filmed at the prison camp.

UNDER THE GUN was an interesting film, though not one of my favorites of the festival, as prison movies don't do that much for me. Still, I really enjoyed the cast and the unique look of the location shooting in Florida. Look for a separate review of this film here in the near future.

Next up was a real treat, my first chance to see an all-time favorite film noir, KISS OF DEATH (1947), on a big screen, starring Victor Mature and Coleen Gray.

In the time since I last saw the movie I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Coleen and later had the honor of attending her memorial service. I've also had the chance to meet Victor Mature's lovely daughter Victoria, so watching the movie at the festival felt even more personal and special for me, all the more so as Victoria was there with us to view the movie and speak about her father.

Victoria, wearing a dress her mother wore on one of her first dates with her father, shared memories of the father she knew, who by then was retired and spent time driving his daughter to school and enjoying the golf course. She also brought a wonderful clip reel of her dad fighting lions, dancing, and doing other fun stuff in some of his movies!

Victoria is an opera singer -- in fact, she graduated from our youngest son's university, UC San Diego -- and shared that she had found sheet music with lyrics for Alfred Newman's "Street Scene," music which is heard at the conclusion of KISS OF DEATH as well as in several other Fox film noir classics, including her father's CRY OF THE CITY (1948). The audience enjoyed an impromptu performance of Victoria singing "Street Scene," another festival highlight for me.


The day's final film was a Library of Congress print of FLAMINGO ROAD (1949), starring Joan Crawford, Sydney Greenstreet, Zachary Scott, and David Brian. Unusually for the festival, this print was on the dark side and broke once, but was happily repaired so we could continue watching; although the print was sub-par, it was no less enjoyable! It was my first time to see the film, and I enjoyed it tremendously; it's a top-drawer Crawford soap opera. I hope one day to see the nitrate print which screened at UCLA in February!

This was the fifth film of the festival which was a first-time watch for me; it was a wonderful opportunity seeing so many great films for the first time in a theater. Be on the lookout for a review of FLAMINGO ROAD here in the near future.

I can't say enough good things about the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival; I intend to return for the festival's 20th anniversary in 2019, and I hope to see more of my readers there next year!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Tonight's Movie: The Red House (1947) at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival

One of the most interesting screenings at the recent Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival took place on Saturday, May 12th: The world premiere of the UCLA restoration of THE RED HOUSE (1947).

The restoration was funded by Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation. My understanding is it will be presented at the 2019 UCLA Festival of Preservation at UCLA's Billy Wilder Theater.

THE RED HOUSE had fallen into public domain and thus is all over YouTube as well as available in myriad DVD copies, but I think I can state with confidence that none of those prints look anywhere near as good as the beautiful print screened at the Palm Springs Cultural Center. It was a memorable film, one of the highlights of this year's festival.

THE RED HOUSE was written and directed by Delmer Daves, based on a novel by George Agnew Chamberlain. The movie might be termed "Gothic noir," or perhaps "Gothic farmhouse noir." It mixes bright, sunny scenes with beautiful young people with a dark, overbearing creepiness and warnings not to ever go into the nearby woods...  It's quite an effectively done film.

Orphaned Meg (Allene Roberts) has been lovingly raised by Pete (Edward G. Robinson), a farmer, and his sister Ellen (Judith Anderson). Meg has some suppressed memories, however, which begin to bubble back to the surface after Pete hires one of her schoolmates, Nath (Lon McCallister) to help with the farm chores. Nath enrages Pete by taking a shortcut home through the dark woods; the experience doesn't go so well and Nath must turn back to the farmhouse to spend the night. Meg, meanwhile, starts having feelings that there's something about the woods she should remember.

The only person allowed in the woods is Teller (Rory Calhoun), hired by Pete to keep others away. Bad boy Teller attracts the attention of Nath's girlfriend Tibby (Julie London); Nath, meanwhile, slowly becomes more interested in Meg, who is also falling for him.

Nath, Meg, and Tibby decide to go exploring in the woods, looking for a mysterious house they believe is there...which eventually proves to be an important part of Meg's past.

I'll stop there so as to preserve the mystery, but suffice it to say this is a very well-done and engrossing 100 minutes with terrific atmosphere. It was beautifully filmed (by Bert Glennon) in Sonora and Columbia, California; the striking locations, such as the river where the teenagers go swimming, give the film a fresh, unique look.

McCallister (HOME IN INDIANA) and Roberts (THE SIGN OF THE RAM, UNION STATION) are appealing as a pair of goodhearted young people, and the young Calhoun and London are simply stunning. As an EMERGENCY! fan dating from childhood, it was great fun for me to see London in such a significant role, filmed when she was about 20.

The Robinson and Anderson parts aren't anything out of the norm for either of them, but they do their usual fine jobs and their performances are key to sustaining the film's mood.

The cast also includes Ona Munson, recently reviewed here in THE HOT HEIRESS (1931), as McCallister's mother, Harry Shannon as the doctor, and Arthur Space as the sheriff. The score was by Miklos Rozsa.

Click any of the above photos for a closer look. Below are a few additional stills, which help give a sense of the film's striking visuals, with its beautiful cast and locations:







It is to be hoped that eventually this beautiful print will make its way to DVD and Blu-ray, but in the meantime watch for it to show up in revival houses over the next couple of years.

Coming soon: An overview of the final day of the festival and a review of UNDER THE GUN (1951), starring Richard Conte and Audrey Totter.

Quick Preview of TCM in August: Summer Under the Stars

The August Summer Under the Stars schedule is now available on the Turner Classic Movies website!

Here is the 2018 Summer Under the Stars lineup. Each star listed below will be celebrated with a 24-hour marathon:

AUGUST 1: FRANK SINATRA

AUGUST 2: MYRNA LOY

AUGUST 3: LIONEL ATWILL

AUGUST 4: CLINT EASTWOOD

AUGUST 5: KATHARINE HEPBURN

AUGUST 6: AUDREY TOTTER

AUGUST 7: HAROLD LLOYD

AUGUST 8: JEANETTE MACDONALD

AUGUST 9: WALTER MATTHAU

AUGUST 10: DOROTHY MALONE

AUGUST 11: GARY COOPER

AUGUST 12: DORIS DAY

AUGUST 13: GEORGE BRENT

AUGUST 14: LUPE VELEZ

AUGUST 15: PETER FINCH

AUGUST 16: MIRIAM HOPKINS

AUGUST 17: BARBRA STREISAND

AUGUST 18: CLARK GABLE

AUGUST 19: JUDY GARLAND

AUGUST 20: STEWART GRANGER

AUGUST 21: ANITA LOUISE

AUGUST 22: DANA ANDREWS

AUGUST 23: VIRGINIA MAYO

AUGUST 24: PETER LORRE

AUGUST 25: CARROLL BAKER

AUGUST 26: ANTHONY QUINN

AUGUST 27: AGNES MOOREHEAD

AUGUST 28: LEW AYRES

AUGUST 29: LAUREN BACALL

AUGUST 30: MARCELLO MASTROIANNI

AUGUST 31: JOAN CRAWFORD

Virginia Mayo lost a Summers Under the Stars Backlot members vote to Claire Trevor last summer, so it's great to see her have a day in 2018!

The day in honor of Dorothy Malone, who passed away in January, is especially appreciated, and I'm also particularly enthused about the day in honor of Anita Louise.

I'll have more detailed information on the August schedule around August 1st. In the meantime, Marlene Dietrich continues as Star of the Month for May, to be followed by Leslie Howard in June and Steve McQueen in July.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Repost: Tonight's Movie: I Know Where I'm Going! (1945)

NOTE: It was nearly a decade ago when I first became acquainted with I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING! (1945), and it's been over half a decade since I first reposted my review. This week I once more revisited this truly magical piece of filmmaking by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, spurred both by my love for it and by having recently rewatched LEAP YEAR (2010) and noticed influences from I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING! which I hadn't caught on my first viewing. I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING! is a wonderful film which deserves a plug every few years -- it's the first film which has had its review reposted here twice -- and so here once more is my review originally posted in November 2008, augmented with additional images.

One of the marvelous things about classic movies is that no matter how many hundreds of films one has seen, there are always more just waiting to be discovered. And there's a particular thrill that comes with viewing a wonderful movie for the very first time.

I had such an experience tonight watching the 1945 British film I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING!, written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

The movie stars Wendy Hiller as Joan Webster, a determined young lady who is headed for her wedding to a wealthy man she doesn't love. However, Joan has to get there first, and "there" is a remote Scottish island. Bad weather strands Joan in a village for several days, where she gradually falls under the spell of the people in general and a poor but dashing Naval officer, Torquil MacNeil (Roger Livesey), in particular.

I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING! combines equal parts comedy and drama. The film's beginning is enchanting, as we follow Joan growing to adulthood over the opening credits. Joan is stubborn -- and mercenary -- yet she also has a certain charm; she's a fully rounded, human character. Small moments linger in the mind, such as Joan hanging up her wedding dress in her train compartment, gazing at it with satisfaction.

Livesey has quiet confidence as Torquil, and Joan and the audience simultaneously get to know him and come to see his worth. The romance between Joan and Torquil is depicted with great subtlety -- blink and you will miss key moments -- but it builds to a wonderful, heartwarming conclusion. The film's 91 minutes fly past quickly.

The black and white photography and the Scottish locations are stunning. You may want to watch this one wrapped in a warm blanket, as the viewer can't help feeling cooooold watching the wind and rainswept scenes. (I also felt a bit seasick during the last third of the movie...) The weather and stark locale combine with Gaelic, ancient castles and legends, music, animals, and village celebrations to give the film a certain otherworldly, mystic quality.

Pamela Brown is particularly striking as Catriona, a free-spirited woman who takes weary traveler Joan into her dog-filled, cobwebby home. Petula Clark was about 12 when she played a young girl Joan meets during her stay. Finlay Currie is also in the large cast.

I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING! is available on DVD as part of the Criterion Collection; like most Criterion DVD's, it's packed with extras, including a commentary track.

The movie is also available on VHS and can be seen on cable on TCM.

I'm looking forward to watching the commentary track soon, as it will give me the chance to absorb more of the film. It's a relatively simple story, but told with so many rich details and nuances that it's impossible to take it all in in one sitting.

Watch and enjoy!

Update: Here's some good trivia...Margot Fitzsimons, who plays young Bridie, is the sister of Maureen O'Hara.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Repost: Tonight's Movie: Something in the Wind (1947)

NOTE: I sometimes repost older reviews of favorite films when I revisit them, in hopes of introducing them to newer readers. I'm sure Deanna Durbin has had more reviews reposted here than any other performer!

I first reviewed SOMETHING IN THE WIND (1947) in December 2011. When rewatching it tonight I was fascinated to realize that it was written by William Bowers and Harry Kurnitz, who contributed to so many great film noir titles, such as THE WEB (1947), released the very same year as SOMETHING IN THE WIND. I just saw THE WEB at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival and reviewed it here last weekend. Bowers in particular is known for his great way with sarcastic dialogue, and I feel sure that some of the funniest, snarkiest lines in the movie -- such as in a great fashion show sequence -- must have come from his typewriter.

It was especially interesting revisiting this film having seen John Dall in ROPE (1948), GUN CRAZY (1950), and THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF (1951) in the intervening years; again, I just saw THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival a few days ago! The timing to rewatch SOMETHING IN THE WIND couldn't have been more perfect.

I think I enjoyed this film even more the second time around. Below is my review as it appeared in 2011, augmented with an additional image of Deanna singing the memorable "Turntable Song" as the movie opens.


Today is the 90th birthday of one of cinema's great treasures, and one of my very favorite actresses and singers, the incomparable Deanna Durbin.

Since I'm down to just a handful of Durbin titles remaining to see for the very first time, I've been spacing out watching them, savoring them bit by bit. Deanna's birthday was the perfect occasion to see one of the last movies on my list, SOMETHING IN THE WIND.

Deanna plays Mary Collins, a disc jockey who becomes mixed up with a wealthy family of snobs. Donald (John Dall) has discovered a recently deceased relative was making payments to a Mary Collins, and mistakenly thinks it's the Mary played by Deanna, drawing all the wrong conclusions. In reality, the Mary was Deanna's Aunt Mary, played by Jean Adair, but it's complicated so we'll leave it at that!

Will Mary find a sponsor for her radio show? Will Donald dump his proper fiancee Clarissa (Helena Carter) when he finds out Mary's really a nice girl? Will Donald's lovelorn cousin Charlie (Donald O'Connor) win Clarissa?

The answers probably aren't in doubt, but what fun getting there! I may be unusual in that I prefer Durbin's '40s films to those she made as a child. She's sassy, confident, and a whole lot of fun to watch.

The film has a strong score by Johnny Green and Leo Robin, starting off in fine fashion with the opening number, the perky "Turntable Song," sung by Mary as she wraps up the latest episode of her radio show.

"You Wanna Keep Your Baby Looking Right" is slyly sung by Deanna to make Donald uncomfortable, and the lovely "Something in the Wind" provides an emotional turning point an hour into the film, as Donald and Mary realize their feelings for one another.

Deanna also duets "Miserere" from IL TROVATORE with Jan Peerce of the Metropolitan Opera, playing a singing policeman.

This was John Dall's second film, following THE CORN IS GREEN (1945). His best-known movies are probably Hitchcock's ROPE (1948) and Joseph H. Lewis's GUN CRAZY (1950). I felt he was rather wooden for much of the film, although a certain amount of that works with his initially stodgy, patrician character. He did warm up in the last third of the film and effectively convey his character's transformation. I thought he was pretty phony in his drinking scene with Donald O'Connor, but the audience probably wasn't supposed to take it all that seriously anyway!

The lively O'Connor adds some energy to the film, singing "I Love a Mystery" and a version of "Something in the Wind," backed by the four Williams Brothers, including Andy.

The film's supporting cast includes Charles Winninger and Margaret Wycherly. William Ching, seen a couple days ago as Marge Champion's beau in GIVE A GIRL A BREAK (1953), plays the master of ceremonies at a fashion show.

The director was Irving Pichel. The black and white cinematography was by Milton R. Krasner. The costumes were designed by Orry-Kelly. The film's running time was 89 minutes.

SOMETHING IN THE WIND is available on DVD in the six-film Deanna Durbin Sweetheart Pack, which contains some of her very best films. As I write, it's currently selling at Amazon for a price which is more than a bargain.

It's also been released on a Region 2 DVD and on VHS; the videotape includes two trailers. (Update: SOMETHING IN THE WIND is now available on DVD in the Universal Vault Series.)

Please visit the birthday tribute I posted one year ago today.

I have just four Durbin films left to see for the first time! Links for all Deanna Durbin films previously reviewed here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: FIRST LOVE (1939), HIS BUTLER'S SISTER (1943), NICE GIRL? (1941), FOR THE LOVE OF MARY (1948), BECAUSE OF HIM (1946), MAD ABOUT MUSIC (1938), THE AMAZING MRS. HOLLIDAY (1943), THREE SMART GIRLS (1936), THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP (1939), IT STARTED WITH EVE (1941), CAN'T HELP SINGING (1944), HERS TO HOLD (1943), IT'S A DATE (1940), LADY ON A TRAIN (1945), THAT CERTAIN AGE (1938), and ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL (1937).

Monday, May 21, 2018

The 2018 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival: Saturday

Our terrific Friday at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival was followed by a wonderful four-film Saturday!

First up on Saturday: Alan Ladd starring in CHICAGO DEADLINE (1949), introduced by Eddie Muller. Donna Reed and June Havoc costarred, with a large supporting cast.

I first saw this "newspaper noir" at last year's Noir City Hollywood Festival and enjoyed revisiting it. I'm always happy to watch an Alan Ladd movie! It's a solid film, building to an exciting shootout in a parking garage.

Again this year we stopped in for lunch at Sherman's, which has one of the best French dip sandwiches I've ever had. A must for festival visitors!

Then it was time for Alan K. Rode to introduce the world premiere of UCLA's restoration of THE RED HOUSE (1947), which was funded by Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation.

I found THE RED HOUSE, which might be called "Gothic farm noir," one of the most memorable films of the festival. It starred Edward G. Robinson, Allene Roberts, Lon McCallister, Judith Anderson, Julie London, and Rory Calhoun. The young London and Calhoun were stunning! Look for a separate review of this film in the near future. (Update: Here is my review of THE RED HOUSE.)

The third film of the day was another title I'd first seen at last year's Noir City festival, THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF (1951), introduced by Eddie Muller. The exciting news here was the film was restored since my first viewing! It looked terrific, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it again, especially since I visited the film's Fort Point location in San Francisco last summer.

THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF stars Lee J. Cobb, Jane Wyatt, and John Dall. Look for it to air on TCM's Noir Alley this summer, and it will also have a Blu-ray release from Flicker Alley.

The final film of the day was WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957), which I'd not since since I was a teenager. I remembered enjoying it but little else, so it was pretty much like seeing a new movie.

Ruta Lee, who has a small but important role in the film, was interviewed by Alan K. Rode before the movie. She said that Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester were very kind to her, inviting her to tea in their dressing room and helping coach her on the proper British dialect for her middle-class character.

Lee also remembered director Billy Wilder chanting Marlene Dietrich's lines to try to help give her the mood and tone he was looking for. Like anyone else in Hollywood, she had only good things to say about the film's star, Tyrone Power, a man who seems to have been universally admired by all.

There aren't enough adjectives to describe Ruta Lee, but effervescent, ebullient, and irrepressible would be a good start. In that regard she reminds me of her longtime friend, Debbie Reynolds. She couldn't have been friendlier when I spoke to her before the movie, which was quite a thrill for me since she's one of the dancers in my favorite film, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954), and she also appeared in one of my favorite episodes of MAVERICK, my favorite TV series.

More festival coverage coming soon, including a review of THE RED HOUSE and an overview of the final day of the festival.

Tonight's Movie: A Lady Takes a Chance (1943) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

In the mid '40s John Wayne made a couple very good romantic comedies with travel-related themes. One was WITHOUT RESERVATIONS (1946), costarring Claudette Colbert, and the other was A LADY TAKES A CHANCE (1943), in which he starred with Jean Arthur.

A LADY TAKES A CHANCE has just been released on DVD and Blu-ray by Kino Lorber. The Blu-ray is beautiful and was a great way to revisit this delightful film, which I originally reviewed on my blog back in 2009.

John Wayne probably isn't the first person who comes to mind as a romantic comedy lead opposite either Arthur or Colbert, but he's completely at home in this genre. (An interesting side note, he was younger than each of those actresses, but it works fine.) Wayne was as skilled a "reactor" as there ever was on the screen, and watching his baffled yet charmed reactions to the endearing Arthur is a big part of what makes A LADY TAKES A CHANCE so much fun to watch.

Arthur plays Molly, who leaves New York for a 14-day vacation seeing the west by bus. She leaves behind three suitors, played by Grady Sutton, Hans Conreid, and Grant Withers, to whom she's polite but indifferent; after being courted by the tepid likes of Sutton and Conreid, it's no surprise that when she meets big, strong rodeo cowboy Duke (Wayne) she's a goner.

After spending an evening together Molly misses her bus; the attracted yet exasperated Molly and Duke bicker as she struggles to get to the city where she can catch the bus, but he's obviously falling for her as well, despite claims that he doesn't want to be tied down.

Arthur's line readings in this film leave me in stitches; that voice that director Frank Capra called "a thousand tinkling bells" has the ability to make me laugh in and of itself. Just her gesturing to a motor court manager about "my bus" makes me laugh. She's just plain cute, there's no other word for it. Pair her with the handsome, earnest Wayne and you've got yourself a very engaging movie. I've watched it several times over the years, and I'm sure I'll be watching this Kino Blu-ray again many more times in the years to come. It's never looked better.

The supporting cast includes Charles Winninger as Duke's best friend, Phil Silvers as the bus tour guide from you-know-where, and Mary Field as Arthur's seatmate on the bus. Field has a gem of a scene as she watches, wide-eyed, as Arthur's trio of swains say farewell to her just before the bus leaves.

This film was directed by William A. Seiter and the uncredited Henry Hathaway. It was shot in black and white by Frank Redman. The running time is 87 minutes.

The lone extra is a trailer gallery for half a dozen films available from Kino Lorber.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Tonight's Movie: The Web (1947) at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival

The new-to-me film I most looked forward to at this year's Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival was THE WEB (1947), and it did not disappoint.

THE WEB, a Universal Pictures film not available on DVD, stars one of my favorite actors, Edmond O'Brien. The sterling cast also including Ella Raines, William Bendix, and Vincent Price. That cast slinging around great William Bowers dialogue in an engrossing story made the film a winner for me.

O'Brien plays attorney Bob Regan, who's hired by business tycoon Andrew Colby (Price) as a bodyguard when a former Colby employee, Kroner (Fritz Leiber) is released from jail. How an attorney like Regan ends up as an unlikely bodyguard is a bit of a story, but it involves a $5000 payday and the opportunity to romance Colby's beautiful assistant Noel, played by Raines. Regan should have lived by the old adage that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Sure enough, very quickly Kroner shows up at Colby's house and Regan walks in on him apparently trying to kill Colby, so Regan shoots and kills Kroner with the gun which had been provided by his employer.

Regan's pal on the police force, Lt. Damico (Bendix), had warned Regan about taking the job even while approving his gun permit. The shooting of Kroner is ruled justifiable...but Damico still harbors suspicions about it, and Regan increasingly feels as though he'd been set up.

While both Regan and Damico try to unravel what actually happened, Regan romances Noel, whose initial resistance finally begins to melt...right around the time she and Regan are both framed for murder by their boss, Colby.

This movie was simply grand fun. O'Brien is at his most appealing and engaging, Raines has a good part as a self-confident, beautiful woman, Price is slimy as can be, and Bendix is just as cagey as you hope he'll turn out to be.

The script by Bowers and Bertram Millhauser, based on a story by Harry Kurnitz, has lots of great lines, and the playing of the characters is such fun that it distracts from some of the odder aspects of the story, such as: Why on earth is Raines' personal assistant living with Price? And Bendix's final plotting is...not very believable, though I suppose the outcome makes up for that.

The movie was directed by Michael Gordon and filmed in black and white by Irving Glassberg. It runs 87 well-paced minutes.

After the movie Vincent Price's daughter Victoria was interviewed by festival host Alan K. Rode. You can read a little more about that at the end of my Friday overview.

THE WEB is a film I'd love to see come out on DVD, as I'd definitely like to watch it again. Fingers crossed for a future release!

Tonight's Movie: Hotel Berlin (1945) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

The World War II drama HOTEL BERLIN (1945), released in the final weeks of the war, was recently released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

HOTEL BERLIN is one of a trio of films starring Faye Emerson released by the Archive in March. The other two movies, reviewed here in recent weeks, were MURDER IN THE BIG HOUSE (1942) and DANGER SIGNAL (1945).

I had high hopes for HOTEL BERLIN, as in addition to Emerson it also stars the very interesting actress Andrea King; the CASABLANCA-ish concept of several desperate people congregated under one roof, looking for ways to survive or escape, sounded intriguing.

Unfortunately the film is a bit of a muddled mess, without clear heroes and with Emerson in a relatively small role; neither Emerson or King, or indeed most of the cast, are sympathetic. Even Helmut Dantine as a member of the German underground on the run from the Nazis is rather cold and doesn't particularly engender emotional investment from the audience.

Emerson plays a hotel employee who will do just about anything for a new pair of shoes, including informing on others to the Nazis, while King is a famous actress who's also the sometime lover of von Dahnwitz (Raymond Massey), an army officer. von Dahnwitz, who was part of a plot to kill Hitler, has just been informed by Baron von Stetten (Henry Daniell) that he's under orders to kill himself, or the Third Reich will do it for him.

Also wandering about the hotel are Peter Lorre, George Coulouris, Alan Hale (Sr.), Helene Thimig, Steven Geray, Kurt Krueger, and Peter Whitney.

The movie begins abruptly with a chase through the hotel, and the script initially provides little for the viewer to latch on to in terms of being able to follow a story, other than the need for Richter (Dantine), the escapee, to hide. The film's attention is scattered among several characters but, as mentioned, they don't command much sympathy or interest. Being interested in the careers of both Emerson and King, I'm glad I can check off seeing it from their filmographies, but that's about it.

Of historical note, at the end of the film's 98 minutes, is a note from Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin about the Allied goals, which were not to do away with the German people but to eradicate the Nazis and their war-making ability.

HOTEL BERLIN was directed by Peter Godfrey and Carl Guthrie. There are some oddball shots here and there, such as Massey filmed through the bottom of a brandy snifter, that seem out of keeping with the story. The score, which I found overly bombastic at times, was by Franz Waxman.

The print is mostly okay but there are a couple slightly abrupt scene jumps and a few scenes which are darker or have flaws.

The trailer is included on the disc.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

Patricia Morison Dies at 103

Actress-singer Patricia Morison died earlier today, May 20th.


The star of stage and screen, who among other accomplishments originated the title role in KISS ME, KATE, was 103.


I'm fortunate to have seen Morison in person on multiple occasions. As a child I saw her play the Baroness in a Los Angeles theatrical production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC.


In more recent years, I saw her interviewed at a 2015 Noir City Hollywood screening of THE FALLEN SPARROW (1943), which took place shortly after she celebrated her centennial birthday.


Just last September Morison appeared at a Cinecon screening of UNTAMED (1940), in which she starred with Ray Milland. She shared her memories of liking working with Milland -- and freezing while shooting the film's blizzard scenes in an ice house!


For more on Patricia Morison, including numerous photos and links to all my reviews of her films, please visit my 2017 birthday tribute to the actress.


Obituaries have been published by the Los Angeles Times, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline, Broadway World, and The New York Times.

I send my sincere condolences to her friends and colleagues, with gratitude for many hours of wonderful entertainment, both past and future.

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