Man-Proof

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This movie has quite an incredible cast: Myrna Loy, Walter Pidgeon, Franchot Tone, and Rosalind Russell. Unfortunately, Rosalind Russell has hardly any dialog except for a schmaltzy speech near the end. She probably spoke more words in the first two minutes of "His Girl Friday" than she did in this entire movie.

Myrna Loy loves playboy Walter Pidgeon, but he marries industrial heiress Rosalind Russell instead. Myrna doesn't give up and Walter's head is easily turned. Platonic family friend Franchot Tone would be a better match, and so it (eventually) goes. It gets a little maudlin in the last act.

Mystery House

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This one starts out with a locked room murder in a hunting lodge, then reconvenes all the suspects for what looks like an "and then there were none" scenario, but it peters out after two additional murders. Agatha Christie didn't publish that book until the following year, anyway.

Accidents Will Happen

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Ronald Reagan plays Eric Gregg, an insurance fraud investigator who is very good at his job. He is saving his company thousands of dollars but  (despite promises from his boss) his own compensation is not increasing. Gregg's wife Nona (Sheila Bromley) is impatient to start having some of the better things in life. Her impatience eventually causes her to collude with an organized bunch of insurance fraudsters to get her husband fired. Gregg, jobless and wifeless, conspires with the girl from the candy counter (Gloria Blondell) to form his own insurance fraud racket. Eventually he merges with the original fraudsters and begins orchestrating bigger and bigger frauds. *Spoiler Alert* It turns out he has been working undercover with the State's Attorney to gather evidence against the fraudsters.

Lightning Carson Rides Again

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This appears to be the first of eight follow-up films to 1936's "Lightnin' Bill Carson".  Federal lawman William "Lightning Bill" Carson has a reputation for being lightning fast on the draw. He is also apparently a master of disguise. In this movie, he sets out to prove his nephew innocent of robbing a bank shipment by infiltrating the bad guy's gang under the persona of Mexican money launderer Jose Fernandez. The good guys triumph.

Storm in a Teacup

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Technically from 1937 but not released in the US until 1938, this movie stars Vivien Leigh and Rex Harrison. In a small town in Scotland, Vivien Leigh is the daughter of the Provost (basically the mayor) who has higher political aspirations.  Rex Harrison is an English newspaper reporter recently arrived to work at the local paper. Given an assignment to conduct a softball interview of the Provost, he instead publishes a rebuke of the Provost's treatment of a working-class woman who refused to pay her dog license fee.  All hell breaks loose. Rex Harrison is just as entertainingly smug here as he is with his Henry Higgins.

Sing You Sinners

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It just shows to go you that I can still be surprised. I had never even heard of this movie that stars Bing Crosby, Fred MacMurray, and a 12-year-old Donald O'Connor. So far this is the only 1938 movie I've run across with even one of these three actors. This is a musical and not only does Fred MacMurray sing, he sings in drag to a Hoagy Carmichael tune.

Three brothers live with their mother but only staid David (Fred MacMurray) has a job to support them all. David wants to marry his sweetheart but won't propose until layabout Joe (Bing Crosby) gets a job so that Joe can support the family when David moves out. Joe doesn't want a steady job but instead hopes to get rich by "swapping" things. Joe eventually moves to California where a lucky series of racetrack bet swaps gives him a sizable stake, which he eventually converts to ownership of a racehorse. Everyone's fortune depends on the outcome of a single race. After much Sturm und Drang he eventually comes out on top, but then (reluctantly) agrees to a steady gig of nightclub singing with his brothers for future income.

Birthright

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This movie may have been released in 1939, but it may have been released in 1938. I'm going with it.

The first two reels (20 minutes) of this movie are missing and summarized in this print.  It is a movie that was created for the segregated black audiences of the time. It is (almost) all about race issues in the South. It is by the same director as Swing!, which I think is a better movie.

A black man from Hooker's Bend (somewhere in the South) goes to Harvard and then returns to his hometown to start a school for higher education for Negroes. He is met with trickery and bullying from the well-to-do white folk, ridicule from the less-well-to-do whites folk, and open hostility from most of the black folk.

As far as race relations go, this movie seems to aver that all is right in the North, but still horrible in the South.  Also, the forward thinking blacks are all very light skinned.  I am not sure what messages are being sent with this movie.  The race relations had some complex undertones that were probably easily understood by its audience.

Production values were poor.  Here is an interesting exchange (with closed captioning turned on so you can see the dialog):

Let your seed wither in your loin,

A Woman's Face

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I was originally tricked into watching the Joan Crawford remake of this movie, but that was from 1941. I have now -finally- watched the Ingrid Bergman original from 1938. In Swedish. With Subtitles.

I'm a little fuzzy on the remake now but I think it has a more developed plot. This original is more bare-bones. Ingrid Bergman plays a woman who, facially disfigured in a fire in childhood, has become something of a crime boss in a blackmailing ring. Through "work" she makes the acquaintance of a surgeon who has had much success fixing facial scarring in veterans. He agrees to fix her up and then through some previous criminal connections she gets a job as a governess. Although the plan is to cause the "accidental" death of her 6 year old charge to clear the inheritance path for an accomplice, she breaks good.

Before:




After:

Lawless Valley

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This is my fifth George O'Brien Western if I've counted correctly.  In most of them he plays an undercover lawman, but in this one he plays a wrongly convicted parolee. Spoiler alert: there is an undercover lawman in the movie.

Plot: Larry Rhodes has been framed and unjustly convicted of stage robbery. His father was murdered and it was made to look like suicide. Larry gets out of jail early and sets out to make things right.

Chill Wills is in this movie, in apparently his first solo venture away from the Avalon Boys. He plays a feckless deputy. He was later the voice of Francis the Talking Mule.

Swing!

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This is a movie with a black cast created for black audiences. I have seen just a couple of these. The appealing thing is that these movies are pretty much the only films of the time that don't portray black people solely as maids or porters acting in a very stereotypical way. Otherwise, the acting in this movie is pretty weak. The musical numbers, however, are very entertaining. It is a musical drama comedy, about how women get involved with "no good" men. Actually there are some "no good" women here too.

I could say something about the politically incorrect way men and women occasionally treat each other in this movie, but I really want to talk about this one exchange...

To set up the situation: there is a Broadway swing musical being produced by and starring Negroes and the lead has just been replaced with our heroine. The show is good but is in financial difficulty. A Broadway theater owner, the only white person in the movie, shows up to bail out the production. He gives the producer an impassioned speech like so:

You don't need to go trekking off to Atlantic City to open. I'll put a show on in my theater as it is. Now I know just what you're going to say but let me do the talking this time. Now you've worked hard; all producers do that. Now you've got a fair show, but with one exception in your show that you're all afraid of (with the possible exception of Miss Powell here) it's just another colored show, and it'll last about as long on Broadway as the average one that's been brought down from Harlem has been lasting. But you've got in this show one spot that is a constellation. And that one spot is the new woman that you just rushed in at the last minute, Mandy Jenkins. She is the most original and versatile person that I've ever seen. With her in a long term contract you've got the biggest colored possibility since Williams and Walker. And it's because of her and the spot she is in this show that I am ready and willing to open on Broadway without even an out-of-town tryout. And to show you how much I think of it, I am ready and willing to assume all financial obligations of the show from now on and lay in your hands a check for ten thousand dollars advance on your share. And the check can be certified. I'll use the fifty square feet over the top of my theater for the biggest electric sign on Broadway,

This is followed by what caused me to spit take...

My only stipulation is... that the name of the show be changed to Mandy Jenkins in 'Ah Lub's Dat Man!'

And just in case you thought you misheard, it was followed by the new title card for the show:

The Invisible Menace

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An army private smuggles his new wife onto an offshore island military base so that they can have a honeymoon. From there this film turns into a murder mystery, with Boris Karloff as the chief suspect. Boris Karloff plays an engineer, not a monster.

I was googling around about this movie and was struck by descriptions of the female lead, Marie Wilson, who plays a ditsy blonde. Although it wasn't obvious to me from this movie, she must have been built like a brick house. Practically every newspaper article about her uses the words 'buxom', 'endowed', or 'curvaceous'. One of my favorites was 'decollete'.

Familiar face: Frank Faylen who played Ernie in It's a Wonderful Life.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

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This is a David O. Selznick Production, but Gone with the Wind it ain't. It is in Technicolor, so it's got that going for it. Otherwise, if you are familiar with your basic Tom Sawyer anecdotes about whitewashing fences and Injun Joe in the caves, there is nothing much to gain from this movie.

It has Walter Brennan as Muff Potter.

Bulldog Drummond's Revenge

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This is listed on IMDB as a 1937 movie, but it was really released in 1938 (discounting a New York only premier). Nothing much different here from the other Bulldog Drummond movies I've watched. My favorite parts still involve Drummond's valet, Tenny. He cracks me up.

Briefly, there is a new dangerous explosive called 'Haxonite' which has been purloined by the bad guys. There is a chase from London towards Paris on the "boat train" or "train ferry".  Drummond always seems to be working his way slowly toward marriage.

Too Much Johnson

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I didn't like this, but then it's not actually a movie. This is some recovered work-in-progress film from an uncompleted Orson Welles project. Here is a link to the TCM page about it.

I did like the footage of the guy running around knocking everybody's hats off.

Little Miss Thoroughbred

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Gambler 'Nails' Morgan (John Litel) grudgingly becomes the not-so-legal guardian of orphan Janet (Janet Chapman) who he believes brings him good luck.

I read some contemporary newspaper accounts of this movie and its child star, and it is seems that the studio was pushing hard for Janet Chapman to be the next Shirley Temple. Janet was cute and small for her age (and she was only five), and Shirley was getting long in the tooth at the ripe age of ten. One of Shirley's big movies when she was younger was "Little Miss Marker", also set around horse racing.

Blondie!

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Penny Singleton has 59 acting credits in IMDB and 28 of them are for playing Blondie Bumstead*. This is the first of those movies. Here we are introduced to Singleton's Blondie, Arthur Lake's Dagwood, Jonathan Hale's Mr. Dithers, and Larry Simms's Baby Dumpling.

Okay, plot: Blondie and Dagwood have just finished paying off their furniture, so Blondie (without telling Dagwood) replaces it all with new furniture to the tune of $22.50/month. Meanwhile Dagwood is in trouble for having signed for a loan for Dithers' former secretary who has since absconded, making Dagwood responsible for the loan. The only way for Dagwood to get the money is to make a business sale to a notoriously hard-to-sell potential client, played by Gene Lockhart. Dagwood accidentally befriends the client over their mutual interest in fixing a hotel vacuum cleaner. Willie Best plays the porter who is responsible for the vacuum. Also, Blondie suspects Dagwood of cheating on her.

Larry Simms later plays George Bailey's oldest son in IAWL. Not the one who says "'scuse me".

*Another 12 are from 1938, not including this one. She was also the voice of Jane Jetson.

Mr. Chump

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Bill Small is an less-than-ambitious trumpet player boarding in the house owned by his sweetheart Betty (Penny Singleton), her sister Jane (Lola Lane), and Jane's husband Ed. Bill mostly just wants to play that crazy swing music on his trumpet but he also has a hobby of playing the stock market (on paper). Over the years he has made millions with his pretend investments. Ed and Jim (his rival for Betty's affections) try to implement Bill's investment scheme with money they embezzle from the bank where they both work, with disastrous results. I was a little disconcerted at the cavalier way the embezzling was portrayed, but SPOILER ALERT they all end up in jail. I'm not sure who the chump is. Lola Lane did not shine in this role.

Here's the trailer if you want to watch it.

Love, Honor and Behave

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This is a story about the too-amicable dissolution of a marriage and the next generation nearly repeating the same mistakes. Dan Painter (played by Thomas Mitchell, Uncle Billy from IAWL) wants his wife to be more passionate and fun-loving. His wife, Sally, believes in quiet dignity and that losing with honor is the highest ideal. She has created a fetish of this virtue, as her husband once says, to the point that she would rather lose with honor than win with honor. This frustrates Dan no end. She is also raising their son, Ted, with this same moral code. Dan has a fling with the neighbor lady and the couple amicably decide to divorce. The neighbor lady also divorces her husband hoping to marry Dan. The neighbors have a daughter, Barbara, who is little Ted's playmate.

When Ted (now played by Wayne Morris) is a senior at Yale he reconnects with Barbara (now played by Priscilla Lane) who sets her cap and tries to navigate Ted towards a different life course. They elope and he abandons his plans for medical school, but his mother's influence is too strong and he continues to be an honorable failure at everything. This time is seems like Barbara is bound to have a fling but Ted finally breaks out of his conditioning and he and his wife have a huge brawl, ending with black eyes for each of them and a vicious spanking for Barbara which she loves.

All's well that ends well.

Young Ted is played by Dickie Moore of Our Gang fame. I thought I saw a quick appearance by Hattie McDaniel as a housemaid, but it turned out to be her sister, Etta McDaniel.

What else...  The movie starts in 1922 and has party-goers casually "making gin" from alcohol and juniper. The movie opens to the tune "Bei Mir Bist Du Schein" and Priscilla Lane sings it during the movie as well. The Andrews Sisters had their big hit with this song in 1937.

To me this movie had a little pre-code naughtiness in it. It must have just squeeked by.

Mr. Doodle Kicks Off

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This movie is a vehicle for Joe Penner, who was apparently one of the most famous radio comedians of the mid-30s. There are not many recordings of his broadcasts, though, and he died very young, so he is not so famous today.

Penner plays Jimmie 'Doodle' Bugs, the son of a wealthy businessman. He wants to pursue a career as a band leader, but his father wants him to be a college athlete. Manipulations ensue.

Billy Gilbert has a real part in this movie, even bigger than in Broadway Melody of 1938.

Daredevil Drivers

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A reckless driver (Dick Purcell) in the already extremely dangerous sport of auto racing is sanctioned and banned from racing. He gets involved in the competition between two commercial bus companies: one with dangerously unsafe maintenance of their fleet (owned by a woman) and one with dangerously bad scruples.

The second female lead is played by Gloria Blondell, Joan's sister.

Four Men and a Prayer

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Directed by John Ford and David Niven and Loretta Young, this movie is a mess.

Plot: A high ranking British officer in India is improperly blamed for allegedly issuing an order that resulting in ninety people being killed. He receives a dishonorable discharge and telegrams his four sons to meet him at home to help prove his innocence. His sons have all done well - one is at Oxford, one is a barrister, one is an aviator/playboy and one works in the British embassy in the United States. The sons are named Wyatt, Geoffrey, Chris, and Rodney, but are nicknamed Beano, Boson, Nosey, and Snicklefritz. After they all gather at the family homestead (but before they can get down to the business of proving their father's innocence) their father is murdered in such a way that it appears to have been a suicide. This further damages his reputation.

The boys and Loretta Young set off to India, Argentina, and Egypt to restore their father's honor. David Niven is periodically funny but the rest is just a mangle.

There is an appearance by Reginald Denny whom I liked so much as Bulldog Drummond's valet in those movies.

Give Me a Sailor

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As I said about Swing It, Sailor, this is a movie about Navy buddies and trouble with women. This movie has Betty Grable, Bob Hope, and Martha Raye. Bob Hope is one of two Brewster brothers, both Navy men. They have grown up with the Larkin sisters, played by Betty Grable and Martha Raye. There is a lack of consensus about which brother should end up with which sister.

I had forgotten about the $250,000.00 Movie Quiz contest which I have talked about previously, but this was one of the movies involved. I have managed to obtain a copy of the complete entry form and the question for this movie is:

What kind of contest does Martha Ray win? (Check one)
( ) A big mouth contest
( ) A cake-baking contest
( ) A dancing contest
( ) A slogan contest


I have a little problem with this because the right answer is not offered. While she attempts to enter a cake-baking contest, she actually mistakenly enters and wins a "best legs" contest. Whom do I complain to?


Crashing Hollywood

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Michael Winston, a would-be writer of Hollywood crime dramas, has a fortuitous run in with Herman Tibbitts, a former crime gang member trying to go straight. They decide to collaborate, becoming wildly successful recounting true crimes from Tibbitts's past as Hollywood thrillers. Tibbitts's old crime boss, the Hawk, finds out and tries to put a stop to it.

This movie was tons of fun. There are chance encounters on a train (with porter Willie Best). There are goofy henchmen. There is a case of mistaken identity because of identical strangers. There is fast-paced witty dialog throughout. And there are ducks. If you want to see an old black-and-white movie starring nobody you know, you could do much worse than this.

Night Spot

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Two musicians-turned-cops go undercover at a mob owned night club to bust open a diamond heist racket. Main cast includes Parkyakarkus as Gashouse, a confused, greek-accented henchman. Parky (born Harry Einstein) is the father of Super Dave Osborne and Albert Brooks. He collapsed and died at the dais after giving a speech at a Friar's Club roast in 1958.

Broadway Melody of 1938

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This is another movie released in 1937 but with 1938 in the title, so I'm including it. MGM released "The Broadway Melody" in 1929 and it won the Oscar for Best Picture that year. Subsequently MGM released three more musical showcase pictures: "The Broadway Melody of 1936", "The Broadway Melody of 1938", and "The Broadway Melody of 1940". These last three all starred Eleanor Powell. This one also includes Judy Garland, Buddy Ebsen, and (1938 favorite of mine) Billy Gilbert.



Highlight: Judy Garland sings her "Dear Mr. Gable" version of "You Made Me Love You".

 
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