Everbody Sing


Judy (Judy Garland) is a troublemaker.  She can't stop singing swing music and this gets her kicked out of the best girls schools in New York. Upon returning home from her latest expulsion she finds her house in chaos. Her playwright father and actress mother are having trouble keeping backers for their play, and Judy's mother (played by Billie Burke) insists on keeping Jerrold, a flattering ham, as her leading man. Rounding out the household is Olga (Fannie Brice) the immigrant housekeeper, Ricky the chef who moonlights as a nightclub singer, and Sylvia, Judy's sister and the apple of Ricky's eye. Judy tries to get a job singing at the nightclub to help with the family finances, but her father disapproves, fires Ricky and sends Judy on an educational trip to Europe. She ditches the ship before it sails and goes to work on Ricky's new Broadway production. On opening day Judy is found out, Ricky declares his love for Sylvia, and the show is a smashing success.

I don't really know anything about Fannie Brice. She was the subject of the movie Funny Girl but due to an unfortunate gap in my movie knowledge I don't think I have ever seen it. In Everybody Sing she does a song as "Baby Snooks", a character my Mom says she remembers listening to on the radio.

Judy Garland performs a song in blackface. In the context of the movie she is not just performing in blackface but actually pretending to be black.  Here is a snippet of dialog:
Ricky: "What's your name?"
Judy: "Opal Pearl Washington and I'm one of twins. Emerald Ruby passed on but my mammy didn't mind so much cause we have twelve others, all twins."

Judy Garland in blackface

Trade Winds


Joan Bennett plays Kay Kerrigan, who is goaded into shooting a man she blames for her sister's suicide. She then drives her car into the San Francisco bay while eluding the police. She is presumed dead, but actually begins a globe-trotting life on the lamb. The police hire freelance detective and playboy Sam Wye (Fredric March) to track her down. Along with oafish police detective Blodgett (Ralph Bellamy) and later his wisecracking secretary Jean Livingstone (Ann Sothern), Wye tracks her from the Territory of Hawaii to Japan, Shanghai, Saigon (then in Indochina, now in Vietnam), Singapore, Colombo (then in Ceylon, now in Sri Lanka) and Bombay. Sam and Kay fall in love, and Blodgett falls for Livingstone. They are forced to return to San Francisco by super detective George Faulkiner, where Wye proves that Kerrigan was not guilty of the murder that she believed she had committed.

Two Robert Osborne comments about this movie: most of the acting is done in front of projected scenes from the exotic locales that were visited.  The director, Tay Garnett, had taken extensive footage of a vacation cruise around the world a year or two before, and had talked the studio into letting him use the footage in this movie. Second, as part of the plot of this movie Joan Bennett dyes her blonde hair brunette in order to conceal her identity.  She had always played blondes up until this point and ever after played a brunette.

Familiar face: the San Fransisco police commissioner is played by Thomas Mitchell, who was Uncle Billy in It's a Wonderful Life.

La Bête Humaine


La Bête Humaine is a film directed by Jean Renoir and based on an Émile Zola book of the same name. It is in French. The title translates to "The Human Beast". The plot: Jacque Lantier is a train engineer with a history of episodes of violent mania. He blames this on the excessive drinking of his forebears. Séverine is the beautiful wife of a small town railroad stationmaster. Robaud is the stationmaster. Robaud learns that his wife was once the mistress of a wealthy man and plots to kill him. He believes that involving Séverine in the murder will bind her to him forever. The murder takes place on a train and Lantier witnesses the couple roaming the train at an incriminating moment. Lantier is taken with Séverine and lies to protect her. Despite the shared murder, Séverine's marriage deteriorates and she begins an affair with Lantier. Séverine begins a campaign to get Lantier to kill Robaud, but despite the demons beneath his surface he cannot go through with it. She uses her womanly wiles to push the issue and unfortunately that's when his hereditary madness kicks in and he kills her. Lantier reports for work the next day but the anticipation of his inevitable arrest gets to him and he jumps from the train.

Séverine is played by Simone Simon (See-moan See-moan) who would later become famous for Cat People.

Simone Simon

Yellow Jack


Major Walter Reed sets out to find the cause of yellow fever which is taking a huge toll in Cuba following the Spanish-American War. After months of unsuccessful research, he uncovers an old theory that a particular species of mosquito is responsible. In order to prove the theory, he conducts human experiments on volunteers. Three volunteers are confined to the "dirty" house: constantly exposed to soiled linens and clothes from infected soldiers with a stove always stoked to keep temperatures high.  Two others are confined to the "clean" house: disinfected and well fed, but one has been bitten by a mosquito that had previously bitten an infected soldier. The theory was proved and the menace eradicated by ridding the island of standing water. The successful practice was carried into the Panama Canal construction area to finally allow the completion of that project.

Robert Montgomery plays John O'Hara, the ringleader of the volunteers. Virginia Bruce is a nurse and his love interest. Lewis Stone (Judge Hardy) plays Walter Reed. My mom watched this with me and pointed out Andy Devine, but she confused him with Gene Autry's sidekick, Smiley Burnette.  Both are frog-voiced sidekick types. Charles Coburn plays the doctor who originally came up with the mosquito theory. Buddy Ebsen plays a character called "Jellybeans", one of the volunteers in the "dirty" house.  Jonathan Hale plays a Major General, and I just saw him as Detective Cramer in Tarnished Angel. I recognize him mainly as Mr. Dithers, Dagwood's boss from the Blondie movies. The first Blondie movie is from 1938 but I haven't caught it on TV yet.

I watched this whole movie thinking it was about malaria but on review I realize it is about yellow fever which, while also spread by mosquitoes, is a completely different disease.

Robert Montgomery and Virginia Bruce

Charles Coburn admires his mosquito collection

Robert Montgomery and Andy Devine

Yellow Jack trailer on TCM

Tarnished Angel


Carol Vinson is a showgirl turned gambling house hostess, flirting with customers and encouraging them to gamble recklessly.  Her casino boss also dabbles in stolen goods.  When she helps her boss evade a police raid, a local detective decides to make it his mission to hound Carol until he catches her doing something illegal.  She skips out with her best friend Violet (Ann Miller) and Violet's boyfriend Eddie. They travel from town to town looking for vaudeville work and Detective Cramer follows them putting the kibosh on every potential job by spreading the word of their bad character. The trio are at rock bottom financially when they attend a revival show promising free coffee.  Carol suffers an epiphany hearing the coins hit the collection plate. She believes that with her knowledge of showmanship she could make good money in the revival racket.  Newly blonde and adopting the name "Sister Connie", Carol together with her friends starts to clean up on the revival circuit, planting "cripples" in the audience so that she can heal them.  Cramer finally tracks her down again but Carol preempts his accusations by publicly acknowledging her previous life of shame as further proof that her current spirituality is real and accessible to anyone.  Things start to go wrong as Carol is forced to make real contributions to a children's charity to maintain her image and a jewel thief from her previous life wants her aid in stealing a necklace from the patron of this charity.  Add to all this that her scheduled "cripple" fails to show up for one of her shows and she accidentally heals someone who really uses crutches. In the end she turns to good, confesses her sins and is forgiven by everyone, including Detective Cramer.

Tarnished Angel trailer on TCM
Ann Miller auditions for a job

Sister Connie's Revival Show

When did they stop having phones like this?

Of Human Hearts


This is the story of a boy raised in austerity in an Ohio frontier town right before the Civil War.  His father is the town preacher and is poorly compensated. The boy is resentful of their poverty, and grows up to be a resentful man.  This resentful man is played by Jimmy Stewart. He finally leaves home to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor, and callously asks his mother to sell all her family heirlooms to cover his costs.  He rarely writes and only goes home for his father's funeral. He goes straight from medical school to serve in the War, still only writing to his mother when he needs money.  After his mother writes the President to try to find out if her son is alive or dead, Lincoln calls him to Washington to berate him for not writing his mother more often.

This is the first of four movies where Beulah Bondi plays Jimmy Stewart's mother, the last being It's a Wonderful Life. Other familiar faces: Walter Huston as his dad, Charles Coburn as the town doctor who inspires him to pursue medicine, Anne Rutherford as his hometown girl, Gene Lockhart as the janitor in the medical school, Sterling Holloway as the shopkeeper's son.

Charles Coburn, Anne Rutherford, and Jimmy Stewart

Rich Man, Poor Girl


Bill is the rich man, Joan is the poor girl, respectively played by Robert Young and Ruth Hussey (the female half of the tabloid journalist team in The Philadelphia Story). Joan is Bill's secretary, and he wants to marry her, but she comes from a tight-knit lower-income family and is afraid that if she marries Bill she will become distant from her family.  Bill decides to allay her fears and prove that he can become part of her family by moving in with them and sleeping on the davenport. Lew Ayres plays the opionated Cousin Henry, and Lana Turner has her biggest role to date as sister Helen.

Familiar face: Marie Blake (Grandmama Addams) as the neighbor.

Marie Blake on the right

Lana Turner

Rich Man, Poor Girl trailer on TCM

Start Cheering


Start Cheering is mostly a vaudeville revue.  Jimmy Durante is the main comic, with the Three Stooges and some other acts popping in and out periodically.  They devote substantial time to a guy who humorously eats cigarettes and paper packaging.

Here's the plot:  Ted Crosley is a movie star who has had great success playing college football heroes.  At the peak of his career, he decides to chuck it all and actually attend college.  Crosley's manager (Walter Connolly) along with his bumbling assistant (Jimmy Durante) plot to sabotage Crosley's college career so that he will return to the movies.  The sabotage attempt is doomed, however, because the Dean of the college has misspent funds on a football stadium and has only barely convinced the board of directors not to fire him, hanging his entire career on "football star" Crosley coming to school.  So despite numerous frame-ups and circumstantial evidence of wrong-doing on Crosley's part, the Dean always laughs and looks the other way.

Interesting note: Charles Starrett, who plays Ted Crosley, was on the Dartmouth football team and it was this that got him his first acting job playing an extra in The Quarterback (1926).

Familiar face: Broderick Crawford as the BMOC.

Jimmy Durante and Walter Connolly
The Three Stooges
Dancing the Susie Q as part of the Big Apple

Valley of the Giants


Hey, this one is in color!

This is the third movie named Valley of the Giants based on the 1918 novel Valley of the Giants by Peter B. Kyne. In it, a California sequoia lumberman must defend his land and trees from unscrupulous lumber speculators.  The good guy is played by Wayne Morris, the bad guy is played by Charles Bickford.  There is a runaway caboose and a dam that must be dynamited.

Here's an interesting thing: There is a 1952 movie starring Kirk Douglas named The Big Trees that is based on this movie (not on the Kyne novel).  In my 1938 movie, Alan Hale plays a rough and tumble lumberjack; in the 1952 movie, Alan Hale Jr. plays a similar character.

Familiar faces: Jerry Colonna performs in the gambling house; Frank McHugh as a gambler; Donald Crisp as a generous banker.

Jerry Colonna
Alan Hale stares down Frank McHugh

Valley of the Giants trailer on TCM

The Cowboy and the Lady


Merle Oberon is the daughter of a wealthy politician, and Gary Cooper is a cowboy with a traveling rodeo. Merle is bored and convinces her maids to take her on a blind date, and she ends up eloping with Gary, to whom she has lied about her circumstances (claiming to be a lady's maid who supports her alcoholic father and younger sisters).  Merle is sweet always but Gary turns nasty when faced with deceit.

Stretch suddenly has an urge to find the captain so they can get married

Familiar faces: Harry Davenport as indulgent Uncle Hannibal, Patsy Kelly as a maid in Palm Beach, Walter Brennan as one of two sidekicks for Gary Cooper.

Girls on Probation


Ronald Reagan plays attorney Neil Dillon in maybe not his first leading role, but certainly one of his first. It is a solid B-movie as the evocative title would suggest. Jane Bryan plays Connie Heath who (through a series of unfortunate coincidences) is accused of a series of crimes. Here's how it went: Connie's father rules his household with an iron fist and forbids Connie from buying a new dress to go dancing. Connie's co-worker Hilda convinces her to go out on the sly and loans her a dress to wear. Hilda is a fun-loving rule-beaker, and has actually "borrowed" the dress from the dry cleaners where both girls work.  At the Hula Club, Neil is out with his girlfriend Susan Hayward who realizes that Connie is wearing her dress. To make matters worse, the dress is damaged during the evening. The next day Connie is accused and fired. Hilda refuses to 'fess up and leaves town.  Neil turns out to be the attorney for the insurance company responsible for replacing the dress. He makes good the loss out of his own pocket so that the insurance company will not press charges against Connie, to whom he has taken a shine. Connie decides to strike out on her own in a different town where she hopes to earn enough to pay Neil back. In this different town, she runs across Hilda and stops to give her a dressing down. Unfortunately, Hilda is at that moment playing getaway driver for a bank heist, and Connie gets caught up in that. Hilda and her bank robber boyfriend are sent to prison, but Connie manages to convince the probation board that she is relatively innocent and is given probation. She travels back to her hometown where she finds that Neil is now Deputy District Attorney, and they become engaged. Hilda is eventually released on parole and returns to blackmail Connie. Hilda's boyfriend escapes from prison and causes even more trouble. Things turn out okay in the end.

"She's wearing my dress!"

Look out! Your dress is caught in the taxi door!

Familiar face: John Hamilton (Perry White to George Reeves's Superman) as the Police Chief

John Hamilton with the accused women

He Couldn't Say No


Lambert T. Hunkins is a timid office worker at a linoleum company.  He has been reluctantly dating Violet Coney, a pushy girl from his office, although he has a crush on Iris Mabby, a senator's daughter whom he has never met. He collects pictures of Iris from newspapers in a secret photo album. He has another private quirk: he likes to frequent estate auctions.

Out of the blue he receives a $10/week raise, and Iris and her domineering mother take the occasion to bully Lambert into engagement.  The bright point for him is that it gives him an excuse to go to the auction house, allegedly to buy furniture for a new apartment for three. While there he is awestruck by a slightly racy statue that resembles Iris Mabby. Despite all attempts at intervention by Iris and her mother, he buys the statue for $100.

It turns out that Iris was indeed the model for the statue, and the Senator wants to destroy it to avoid potential scandal. He offers Lambert $3000 for it but is refused. The newspapers pick up this story and Lambert gains notoriety as a screwball who values a plaster statue beyond reason. Some mobsters become interested in his inexplicably valuable property and determine to steal it. Iris herself visits Lambert and is charmed by him. Everything turns out well in the end.

Lambert is played by Frank McHugh. Violet is played by Jane Wyman and her mother is played by Cora Witherspoon.

The infamous auction

Trailer for He Couldn't Say No on TCM

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm


"Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" is the title of a classic 1903 book by Kate Douglas Wiggin.  It is also the title of a 1938 movie starring Shirley Temple.  Apart from the title, these two works have three things in common: a girl named Rebecca, a farm called Sunnybrook, and an aunt named Miranda.

In the novel, Rebecca is sent to live with her maiden aunts, Miranda and Jane, because her widowed mother cannot afford to feed or educate all of her seven children on the income from the family farm, which Rebecca nicknames "Sunnybrook Farm". Rebecca's life is not easy under the control of the irascible and parsimonious Aunt Miranda, but her imagination and bright personality see her through all the tough times.

In the movie, Rebecca (Shirley Temple) auditions to be "Little Miss America" as part of a new radio advertising campaign for Crackly Grain Flakes.  She wins the role, but due to a misunderstanding between advertising executive Tony Kent (Randolph Scott) and his assistant Orville Smithers (Jack "Tin Man" Haley) she is sent away thinking she has been rejected.  Her ne'er-do-well guardian/manager (William "Uncle Charley" Demarest) then leaves her with her Aunt Miranda who lives on Sunnybrook Farm.  Aunt Miranda is not fond of show people (and, okay, she is irascible) so when Kent and Smithers manage to track down Rebecca she will not allow her to participate.  Shenanigans ensue.  Shirley Temple dances with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and sings a medley of her most famous songs, including "On the Good Ship Lollipop" and "Animal Crackers in My Soup".

Bill Robinson and Shirley Temple

Randolph Scott and Jack Haley

William Demarest

One more familiar face: Franklin Pangborn as an "emergency musician" for the radio broadcast.

Young Dr. Kildare


Fresh out of med school, Dr. Jimmy Kildare declines to join his father's small town practice and instead heads off to a big hospital in New York.  He is one of a crop of young interns under the tutelage of crotchety old Dr. Gillespie, the brilliant but acerbic wheelchair-bound diagnostician. Young Dr. Kildare pulls ambulance duty and on his first trip responds to an unconscious man in a bar.  Interrupted by a call to a suicide attempt at a flop house, Jimmy sends the ambulance back to the hospital with the bar patient.  Joe the ambulance attendant feels no pity for the patient, assuming he is just a drunk, and does not follow Jimmy's instructions to administer oxygen en route.  The patient dies and it turns out he is a local political boss.  Jimmy takes the rap for Joe and earns a friend for life.  Jimmy is able to save the would-be suicide, who turns out to be an heiress with a mystery.  She is written off as a mental case by the hospital establishment but Jimmy flouts hospital authority to keep working the case and unravels the source of her depression.  Jimmy is fired as an intern but Gillespie hires him back as his assistant and protege.

This was the first of nine Kildare movies starring Lew Ayres as Jimmy Kildare and Lionel Barrymore as Dr. Gillespie.  Barrymore starred in six more movies as Gillespie without Kildare, after Lew Ayres conscientiously objected in WWII. There was one previous Kildare movie without either actor.

Familiar faces: Nat Pendleton as Joe the ambulance attendant; Marie Blake (Grandmama from "The Addams Family") as a receptionist; Monty Woolley (The Man Who Came to Dinner) as the psychiatrist treating the heiress; Samuel S. Hinds (George Bailey's dad from It's a Wonderful Life) as Dr. Kildare the elder.

Marie Blake and Nat Pendleton

Judge Hardy's Children


Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone) is recruited to head a commission in Washington investigating the regional monopoly of a power utility.  The whole family goes along, of course.  Andy (Mickey Rooney) gets involved with the daughter of the French ambassador.  Marian gets involved with some society people who are just using her to influence her father's commission.  After a couple of man-to-man talks between Andy and his father everything turns out okay.

There were a couple of interesting phrases dropped in the movie.  Marian and her hometown boyfriend have an argument and he remarks, "Of all the school girl exhibitions I ever saw, this one takes a fur-lined teacup." There actually is a famous fur-lined teacup from 1936.  Check out this link to a piece of surrealist art by Meret Oppenheim.  It is currently at the MoMA. 

There are several times when Andy is practicing his French.  He always mangles the pronunciation horribly.  Once, after his dad agrees to buy him a tuxedo, he says "Gee, you're what they call 'un homme merveilleux'.  That means 'you're the berries' in French." 

Also, my favorite MCMXXXVIII dance, the Big Apple, makes an appearance in this movie.

Andy teaches Suzanne the Big Apple

Trailer for Judge Hardy's Children on TCM

Out West with the Hardys


Mrs. Hardy needs a little r&r and Judge Hardy has an old beau in need, so they pack up the family for a trip out West. The Judge must help his old girlfriend and her husband negotiate some water rights for their ranch.  Big sis Marian falls in love with a local (like she did in Catalina*) and decides to dump her boyfriend back home and be a ranch hand's wife.  I sure hope she settles down in Carvel in the later movies because that girl is not sensible when she travels.  Andy tries to show off for the ranch hand's 8-year-old daughter (don't worry, the ranch hand is a widower) and ends up breaking the leg of her horse.

Jake, the ranch hand's daughter, is played by Virginia Weidler, who sang "Lydia the Tattooed Lady" in The Philadelphia Story (1940).  She and Bonita Granville are my favorite MCMXXXVIII child actresses.

*A couple of months back my TiVo tricked me into watching You're Only Young Once, a Hardy Family movie about a vacation to Catalina Island.  I later found out that it was released in December of '37, so I didn't do a write-up.  My TiVo recently tried to get me to watch The Hardys Ride High from 1939, but once bitten, twice shy.

Standard Hardy cast:
Lewis Stone as Judge Hardy
Mickey Rooney as Andy Hardy
Anne Rutherford as Polly Benedict

Out West with the Hardys trailer on TCM

Lord Jeff


Lord Jeff with Freddie Bartholomew and Mickey Rooney.  We first meet Lord Jeff (Freddie Bartholomew) as the overly demanding child resident of a London hotel.  His lordship is condescending toward (and despised by) the hotel staff.  While shopping at a jewelry shop for a present for his mother, he is suddenly struck with some sort of stomach ailment and must be rushed back to the hotel.  Shortly thereafter an inspector comes to question him about another patron present at the shop who made use of the distraction to steal a priceless necklace.  It turns out that "Lord" Jeff is really an orphan who was running a con with his "governess" and the man who stole the necklace.  His accomplices escape but Jeff is arrested and sent to a trade school for homeless boys.  The school where his is sent, Dr. Barnardo's Russel Cotes Nautical School, trains boys to work in the British equivalent of the merchant marines.  Jeff is condescending and aloof there as well, but is eventually taught honor and pride by the example of star student Terry O'Mulvaney, played by Mickey Rooney.  Thus it is that Jeff declines to rejoin his con-artist former partners when they find and try to reengage him.  They still try to use him to transport the stolen necklace to New York by sewing it into the lining of his coat knowing that he will be assigned to apprentice on the Queen Mary.

Familiar faces: Charles Coburn as Captain Briggs, the dean of the school; Peter Lawford has a bit part as one of the new kids that arrive at the school with Jeff.

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