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

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