Block-Heads

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Block-Heads with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.  Stan and Ollie are doughboys together in WWI.  When the rest of the platoon is to charge forward, Stan is given orders to stay and guard the trench.  He stays at his post for the next twenty years until he is discovered and returned to the States.  When Ollie discovers that Stan has returned he fetches his old friend from the Soldiers' Home and brings him home.  Several dozen sight gags later the movie ends.

In this scene, after Stan has tried to light the oven and failed (but left the gas on), Ollie has gone to light the oven himself.

Hard to Get

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Hard to Get with Dick Powell and Olivia de Havilland.  Maggie Richards (Olivia de Havilland) is the daughter of a wealthy Park Avenue family.  In a pique she declares that she will not be accompanying the family to their summer house in Newport and takes off for a spur of the moment drive.  On a country road, she finds herself in need of gas and stops at an auto court managed by Bill Davis (Dick Powell).  She is outraged to learn that the $3.48 (fourteen gallons of gas and a quart of oil) she owes cannot just be "charged" to her father.  Bill insists that she work off her debt by cleaning the ten cabins of the motor lodge.  She does so, but not willingly, and she vows to get revenge for this humiliation.  She returns the following day full of apologies and woos Bill, setting up a dinner date. She pretends to be a maid in her Park Avenue house and learns that Bill is an aspiring architect with a business idea.  With this knowledge she sets him up for a series of humiliating business pitches to her father, Ben Richards (Charles Willinger), and his friend and competitor, John Atwater (Thurston Hall).  To everyone's surprise and despite getting the bum's rush over and over, Bill never ever EVER gives up. Until, that is, he learns that he is the target of a joke and washes his hands of the lot of them.  Then Ben Richards and Atwater cannot rest until they get a piece of Bill's business plan, and Ben must patch up Bill and Maggie's romance as well.





Dick Powell and Olivia de Havilland







Dick Powell sings "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby" and later dresses in blackface and does a Jolson impersonation.

Familiar faces:
Penny Singleton (from the Blondie movies) as Maggie's personal maid
Melville Cooper (Sheriff of Nottingham from The Adventures of Robin Hood) as Mr. Richards' valet
Tom Fadden* (the toll keeper from It's a Wonderful Life) as a gas station attendant
Looks like I was wrong about this one.  It was Irving Bacon.

 *IMDb doesn't even list this one!

Man from Music Mountain

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Man from Music Mountain with Gene Autry and Smiley Burnette.  Gene Autry plays a singing cattle rancher named Gene Autry.  Evil businessman John Scanlon (Ivan Miller) concocts a real estate scam to sell worthless property in an abandoned ghost town, on the promise that it will soon have electricity from the the just completed Boulder Dam.  To sweeten the deal, he includes an interest in a worthless community gold mine.  Gene knows that there are no plans to build power lines to the area and that the mine is worthless, but he cannot convince the naive people moving in from the city.  Gene decides to scam the scammer by seeding the mine with real gold, but inadvertently convinces even more people to move into town.  This gold rush causes the power company to change their plans and run power lines to the town.  Just when Gene has convinced Scanlon to buy back his worthless mine, real gold is uncovered.  Gene must then rush to stop the sale.  In this movie Autry was much more dishonest than the bad guy, but in the end the good guys win and the bad guys lose.

Familiar face: Dick Elliot as a representative of the Southwest Water & Power Company, who played the man on the porch in It's a Wonderful Life ("Why don't you kiss her instead of talking her to death!")



Smiley opens an electric appliance shop

Garden of the Moon

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Garden of the Moon with Pat O'Brien, Margaret Lindsay, and John Payne.  John Quinn (Pat O'Brien) is the manager of the hottest nightclub in L.A., "Garden of the Moon" in the Royal Hotel.  He rules the place with an iron fist and an attention to details.  When his upcoming headliner, Rudy Vallee, is involved in a bus accident, he is convinced to hire an unknown orchestra by his publicity manager, Toni Blake (Margaret Lindsay).  This new band is led by Don Vincente (John Payne), a talented musician and band leader who refuses to kowtow to Quinn's demands and standards of behavior.  Before Vincente can perform his first number he is given his two weeks notice.  Knowing that Quinn is a sucker for visiting royalty, Toni and Vincente trick Quinn into believing a Maharajah from India is coming to see his old college buddy, Vincente.  The fraud barely lasts the evening and Quinn once again fires Vincente, only to be told by the hotel owners that he is to hire Vincente for a six month contract.  Quinn uses bullying and trickery to alternately force Vincente to leave or convince him to stay.

It wasn't until the visiting Maharajah bit that I realized I had seen this movie before.  Pat O'Brien has the best role with his fast-talking, totalitarian Quinn.  Familiar faces in this movie are Penny Singleton as Quinn's secretary, Melville Cooper as the head waiter, and Jerry Colonna as one of the band members.


Pat O'Brien and Margaret Lindsay

Jerry Colonna

Island in the Sky

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Island in the Sky with Gloria Stuart and Michael Whalen.  Assistant District Attorney Michael Fraser (Michael Whalen) chooses the romantic rooftop nightclub "Island in the Sky" to propose to his secretary, Julie Hayes (Gloria Stuart).  Their wedding plans must be delayed, however, when a murder takes place nearby and the victim's son is the obvious suspect. Although the son is convicted, Julie believes he is innocent and works to clear his name and find the real killer.

This is a murder mystery with lots of laughs and lots of familiar faces.  Gloria Stuart was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role as the older version of Rose in Titanic.  The nightclub owner is played by Leon Ames, whom I know best as The Colonel, Mr. Ed's neighbor.  The DA's policeman sidekick is played by Paul Hurst, who was the Yankee deserter that Scarlett shot in Gone With the Wind.


Western Jamboree

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Western Jamboree with Gene Autry and Smiley Burnette.  Gene Autry plays a singing ranch foreman named Gene Autry.  The villains in this movie are HELIUM rustlers! (I kid you not).  In a separate plot, Gene helps old Dad Haskell impress his daughter and her fiancé by letting them think Dad owns the ranch.  Smiley Burnette as Frog Millhouse is obsessed with balloons, which fits in nicely with the helium plot.


Gun Law

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Gun Law with George O'Brien and Ray Whitley.   U.S. Marshal Tom O'Malley (George O'Brien) is on his way to clean up the crime-ridden town of Gunsight, Arizona.  On route, notorious gunslinger "The Raven" gets the drop on him.  Raven makes O'Malley exchange clothes with him and takes the Marshal's badge and assignment papers, intending to impersonate O'Malley. Before he can make it to town, Raven poisons himself by drinking from a contaminated watering hole, dies, and thus O'Malley is able to retrieve his belongings.  The Marshal also finds a letter of introduction Raven is carrying to a local crime boss in Gunsight. So O'Malley gets the bright idea of impersonating Raven and cracking this crime ring from the inside.  Once in Gunsight and establishing himself as Raven to the bad guys, he is informed that his mission is to kill the new Marshal that is due in town.  After using his U.S. Marshal badge as proof that he has already dispatched O'Malley, the bad guys get the bright idea that Raven/O'Malley should impersonate O'Malley as the town's new Marshal.  He does this but turns out not to be everything that the bad guys desire in a crooked lawman, so they start a rumor that O'Malley/Raven/O'Malley is really Raven impersonating O'Malley.

Ray Whitley plays Sam McGee, a singing waiter who is really an undercover deputy Marshal.  Ray Whitley wrote Back in the Saddle Again.






"BAD WATER"

A Yank at Oxford

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A Yank at Oxford with Robert Taylor, Maureen O'Sullivan, and Vivien Leigh.  Lee Sheridan (Robert Taylor) is the star athlete of his local college and the celebrated hero of his small hometown (in no small part because his father owns the newspaper and prints headlines of his every accomplishment).  He is given the opportunity to continue his education at Oxford where he has no doubt he will again be in the athletic spotlight.  At Oxford he presents himself as overweening and arrogant and immediately becomes the target of scorn and practical jokes by the indigenous students.  To their dismay, he is as good an athlete as he claims and soon becomes their best track team member and "stroke" on the rowing team. His refusal to adopt a proper Oxford attitude eventually leads to a long standing animosity with one of his fellow athletes, Paul Beaumont (Griffith Jones).  Things are also complicated by Lee's romance with Paul's sister Molly (Maureen O'Sullivan) and Paul's illicit affair with Elsa Craddock (Vivien Leigh), the wife of a local bookshop owner.

Sheridan is quite the ladies' man.  Upon first meeting Molly he asks her if she ever finds the time to "fling woo".  He also flirts a bit with Vivien Leigh, although she flirts a bit with every man in this movie.  Vivien Leigh steals every scene she is in, and her character was a little racy for these 1938 movies.  She is a married women unashamedly on the prowl to fling some woo with the students of Oxford.  In the end her husband finds out about her affairs with students and decides to move his bookshop to Aldershot, home of the British army, where they will be convenient to the officer's club.

Also in this movie: Lionel Barrymore and Edmund Gwenn.




Vivien Leigh: "I believe you're pulling my leg" 


Robert Taylor: "Well, I'm restraining myself as best I can." 

Hold That Kiss

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Hold That Kiss with Maureen O'Sullivan, Dennis O'Keefe, and Mickey Rooney. Junie Evans (Maureen O'Sullivan) and Tommy Bradford (Dennis O'Keefe) are both working class stiffs who cater to society clientele. Junie works for a couturier and Tommy is a salesman for a travel agency. They meet at a society wedding ball where Junie is helping the bride with her honeymoon ensemble and Tommy is hand delivering cruise tickets. They both pretend to be invited guests and each believes the other, aided by the fact that the absent-minded host also mistakes them for guests. Tommy has memorized countless tour descriptions ("When night falls and the shadows start to lengthen in glamorous old Singapore, one is taken back to the romantic days of Marco Polo...") and can pass himself off as a world traveller even though he has never been "east of the Statue of Liberty". Each is impressed that the other is more down to earth than the society snobs he (or she) usually encounters. They start to date, taking pains not to reveal their real social standing. In searching for a date venue that is inexpensive but still "society", Tommy decides to take Junie to the dog show, where they somehow end up as owners of the Saint Bernard that won Best in Show. Eventually the charade falls apart, and after initial anger at the mutual deception and some payback pranks, the couple plus dog ride off together. Mickey Rooney plays Junie's clarinet playing younger brother, Chick.

Someone in the movie once mentions the "Four Hundred" and once Tommy introduces himself as "T. Van Rensselaer Bradford". This is a reference to elite New York society in the late 1800's. It was said that there were only 400 people who mattered in New York society, and the Van Rensselaer family was part of this. A good article about "The Four Hundred" can be found here: http://edwardianpromenade.com/?p=839. Also in the movie they twice use the phrase "soup and fish" to refer to formal wear (once saying "a tux is no good, it's gotta be soup and fish!")


Blond Cheat

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Blond Cheat with Joan Fontaine. Life is good for Mike Ashburn (Derrick De Marney). He is a senior loan officer at the Trafalgar Loan Company in London and is engaged to the boss's daughter. When closing up after work he is approached by a last minute customer who wants to borrow £400. His collateral? A pair of diamond earrings his lovely niece, Julie (Joan Fontaine), is wearing.  After close scrutiny of both the niece and the earrings, Mike agrees. As the uncle quickly departs with the money, it turns out that the earrings can't be removed and Mike must keep the girl as collateral as well.  Realizing that he has been swindled, Mike determines not to let Julie abscond with his collateral and vows to keep her within his sight until the uncle returns. Predictably, this causes friction with his fiancée. It turns out that breaking up his engagement is actually the intended outcome of this ruse.

 
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