Burt, Bogle, and Big Screens: Notes from the TCM Classic Film Festival

tcmopener2Once again, I attended the TCM Classic Film Festival as a civilian; that is, a regular fan who went for the movies, the stars, and the camaraderie. The festival was held at the end of April this year, which meant that it coincided with the end of the semester for me. I must have looked peculiar sitting on the floor in the queue lines grading final exams, but I would not have missed the fest’s four intense days of nonstop movie-going for anything.

The 2013 festival differed from last year’s in that it featured more tried and true classic films that are regularly shown on TCM, and it included several big-budget spectaculars with long running times. For those reasons, I did not see quite as many films as I did last year, but that is a minor quibble. The fest was still a highlight of my year, and I plan to go again in 2014. I thought I would share some treasures and surprises from this year’s fest for those who might like to attend but are still on the fence.

ANN BLYTH

ANN BLYTH

It is surprising at how gratifying it is to see movie stars, especially those who were part of the films chosen for the festival.  The experience underscores the difference between celebrities and bona fide stars. Stars understand that they represent something to viewers, whether it is a direct connection to a favorite film, or an ideal or value associated with their key characters. Most stars respect that connection by offering anecdotes about a film’s cast and crew from an insider’s perspective that will  enhance the viewing experience. At age 84, Ann Blyth, who played venomous Veda in Mildred Pierce, looked stunning as she graciously talked about Joan Crawford’s kindness toward her during the film’s production. In discussing her career with Robert Osborne, she offered a glimpse into her life as an actress under contract in the old studio system, talked about her final starring role opposite Paul Newman in The Helen Morgan Story, then coyly dodged Osborne’s question about why she retired.

COLEEN GRAY AND STERLING HAYDEN IN 'THE KILLING'

COLEEN GRAY AND STERLING HAYDEN IN ‘THE KILLING’

Though Blyth was a touch of old-school Hollywood glamour, I  preferred actress Coleen Gray’s reminiscences at a screening of Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing. Gray, who played good girl Fay, appeared in only two sequences in this crime thriller, but she certainly had a handle on her director and costars. Gray admired the young Kubrick and recalled how she went to see his previous film, Killer’s Kiss, before shooting began. She said that Kubrick’s low-low-budget, independently produced film was on a double bill with a big-budget studio production, Summertime, starring Katharine Hepburn. After Killer’s Kiss, the audience applauded, but after Summertime, they did not, which impressed her. Though Gray was excited to work with Kubrick, ultimately he did not direct her very much, which was disappointing for her; instead, he worked closely with Marie Windsor, who dominated the film as femme fatale Sherry Peattie. As for her other costars, Gray noted that while leading man Sterling Hayden was nice, he stayed to himself as part of his acting process for his role as ill-fated Johnny Clay. Her most interesting comment concerned character actor Timothy Carey, who played an eccentric but intimidating hit man. According to Gray, Carey always seemed to be baring his teeth in a menacing way; she advised us to “watch his teeth.”  Despite her small role, the actress was pleased with The Killing, complementing its “good story.” The way Gray sees it, the formula for a memorable film is a triangle with the director and cast at the bottom and a good story at the top, or apex, of the triangle. She sharply noted, “We don’t get this [a good story] much anymore” because there are “too many toys” in modern-day filmmaking.

REYNOLDS IN THE RIVER THAN ALMOST KILLED HIM

REYNOLDS IN THE RIVER THAN ALMOST KILLED HIM

When Burt Reynolds walked out to a standing ovation to help introduce Deliverance, there was no mistaking his impact on the crowd. Costars Jon Voight and Ned Beatty and director John Boorman were also there to answer questions from Ben Mankiewicz, but the applause was deafening for Reynolds. The three actors had obviously stumped for Deliverance before because they settled into a shtick, with Reynolds and Beatty joking about their lowly status during the film’s production compared to Voight, who had been Oscar nominated for Midnight Cowboy.  If part of Reynolds’s star image revolves around his physicality and ability to do stunts, he did not disappoint the fans as he recalled how he actually went over that 90-foot, roaring waterfall in the film. Director Boorman had tested a dummy, but it looked “like a dummy going over a waterfall.” The stuntman refused to go over the falls, so Reynolds stepped up to do it himself. The force of the water threw him against the rocks on his back, breaking his tailbone and damaging his kidney. He flipped through the water, landing on his neck, before being thrown into a whirlpool. Fortunately, the stuntman had warned him that if he found himself in the whirlpool, he should dive to the bottom of the river, where the force of the circulating water would shoot him straight up. The stunt landed Reynolds in the hospital for several days. When he returned, he asked Boorman how the scene looked in the rushes. The director responded, “Like a dummy going over a waterfall.”

YOU SHOULD SEE HARLOW IN THIS WEDDING DRESS FROM THE FRONT.

YOU SHOULD SEE HARLOW IN THIS WEDDING DRESS FROM THE FRONT.

Another part of the festival that surprised me was the experience of seeing familiar films on a big screen. I was not the only one to notice this, because it was a common remark in introductions to the films and from fellow fest-goers while waiting in line. I noticed the impact of the big screen the most while viewing Libeled Lady, the 1936 screwball comedy with the high-powered cast, including Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow, William Powell, and Myrna Loy. Generally, watching a classic on the big screen amplifies the visual design, helping viewers to understand the impact of light and shadow, camera angle, composition, and editing on their understanding of the story. But, when I saw Libeled Lady on the big screen, I better understood the talents of the four larger-than-life stars. Personality actors are underrated in our current era, especially when compared to method actors, who are lauded for their realistic portrayals of characters. But, personality acting, which was the style during the Golden Age, is deceptive because the stars make it look effortless. It consists of deliberate and faultless line delivery, exquisite timing, and a controlled physicality. Most of all, it depends on the actor understanding his star persona and playing into it to its best advantage.  The way Libeled Lady introduces its four stars is a great example of the way material was shaped to the stars and their images, and the way a big screen amplifies those touches. A gruff, irritable Spencer Tracy opens the film as a would-be groom looking for an excuse not to get married. Tracy plays the entire scene without pants, setting up the audience to understand his bluster as all bark and no bite. A jilted Jean Harlow shows up a few minutes later in her satin wedding gown. In long shot, Harlow marches from the background to the foreground, dominating the shot with energy and verve. On the large screen, no one will miss that she is braless, which references an aspect of her image from the pre-Code era. William Powell is introduced in a montage of shots that reveals his playboy character, while Myrna Loy emerges in close-up after pulling a sweater over her head and mussing her generally perfect hair. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed this film so much.

I HAD NEVER HEARD OF DOROTHY MACKAILL PRIOR TO SEEING 'SAFE IN HELL,' BUT SHE WAS TERRIFIC.

I HAD NEVER HEARD OF DOROTHY MACKAILL PRIOR TO SEEING ‘SAFE IN HELL,’ BUT SHE WAS TERRIFIC.

Films that I have never seen before that surprise me with their complexity, wit, or style are like discovered treasures. At this year’s fest, two films qualified as treasures—Safe in Hell and The Tall Target. The former is a pre-Code film directed by William Wellman that reminded me of Rain, the torrid Joan Crawford drama about a fallen woman in a tropical den of inequity. In Safe in Hell, an actress that I had never heard of, Dorothy Mackaill, stars as Gilda, a New Orleans prostitute who thinks she murdered her ex-lover. She escapes to a Caribbean island, where she falls in love with a sailor. When he sets sail, he leaves her behind as  the only female resident in their tropical hotel. The male residents leer, ogle, and stare as she fends off their advances. The dialogue drips with double entendre. When Gilda fetches water from the community cistern, she is appalled that the water has worms in it. The corrupt sheriff tells her that the worms are necessary to consume the bacteria that can cause sickness, but he begins the conversation by asking her if she is offended by “slimy wigglers.” The conversation takes on a sexual connotation when Gilda’s eyes shift down to the sheriff’s pants. Film historian Donald Bogle, who is the premiere scholar on the history of African Americans in Hollywood films, selected Safe in Hell because of the interesting black characters played by Nina Mae McKinney and Clarence Muse. Neither plays a servant who speaks in that exaggerated black dialect found in most Hollywood films. McKinney, who was the first black actress to land a contract with MGM, costars as the owner of the hotel, while Muse speaks with better diction than any of the white characters.

I HAVE DUBBED 'THE TALL TARGET' A "HISTORY NOIR."

I HAVE DUBBED ‘THE TALL TARGET’ A “HISTORY NOIR.”

Bogle also introduced The Tall Target, another film with an unconventional African American character. Directed by Anthony Mann, The Tall Target is like a “history noir,” because it set in 1860 and tells the story of a New York cop who struggles to prevent the assassination of Abraham Lincoln before he is inaugurated. I first mentioned The Tall Target a few months ago in a post about Abraham Lincoln movies. I had no idea that I would have an opportunity to see it on the big screen. I highly recommend it for several reasons. The film was directed by Mann as he was transitioning from film noir to the western. The visual style not only includes the unusual angles, low-key lighting, shadow patterns, and claustrophobic spaces of noir but it creates the perfect atmosphere for suspense and intrigue. Dick Powell, who changed his image from light-hearted musical star to hard-boiled detective when he starred in  Murder My Sweet, is suitably intense as the cop, whose name is John Kennedy. No kidding.  A young Ruby Dee plays the slave of a Southern family on board the train where the principal action takes place, and, like the black characters in Safe in Hell, she defies the Hollywood stereotype.  Most of all, I was struck by the themes of the film, which seem so relevant today. In The Tall Target, America is torn apart regionally and politically by the election of a president. Tensions are exacerbated by accusation and assumption as Northerners see Southerners as gun-toting secessionists, while Southerners predict the end of the country because of the election of Lincoln.

The TCM Classic Film Festival offers something for all movie-goers, from fans who are enchanted by their favorite star to movie lovers engrossed by an old favorite on the big screen to cinephiles excited to see a newly discovered treasure.  Next year, get off the fence and join us.

48 Responses Burt, Bogle, and Big Screens: Notes from the TCM Classic Film Festival
Posted By Heidi : May 6, 2013 12:37 pm

Would love to make it one year, just too far and expensive right now, not fence sitting. I was lucky enough to get to see “The Philadelphia Story” on the big screen a couple of years ago. I don’t know what got into the AMC to show it, but we went with bells on, along with only about 20 other people. It was not a great copy of it, but seeing Cary Grant on the big screen changed my life forever! We will keep saving pennies and hopefully make it one day!

Posted By Heidi : May 6, 2013 12:37 pm

Would love to make it one year, just too far and expensive right now, not fence sitting. I was lucky enough to get to see “The Philadelphia Story” on the big screen a couple of years ago. I don’t know what got into the AMC to show it, but we went with bells on, along with only about 20 other people. It was not a great copy of it, but seeing Cary Grant on the big screen changed my life forever! We will keep saving pennies and hopefully make it one day!

Posted By Susan Doll : May 6, 2013 12:53 pm

I hope that you can make it, too. Another plus is that the theaters are filled with like-minded movie-lovers, most of whom are friendly while waiting in line and respectful of the movies.

Posted By Susan Doll : May 6, 2013 12:53 pm

I hope that you can make it, too. Another plus is that the theaters are filled with like-minded movie-lovers, most of whom are friendly while waiting in line and respectful of the movies.

Posted By swac44 : May 6, 2013 1:51 pm

I’m jealous about Safe in Hell, I’ve only been able to see one of Mackaill’s films on the big screen to date (which is still more than most people have been able to see), the part-talkie His Captive Woman at Cinefest in Syracuse, and it was a real treat, even though most of her scenes were silent (the flashbacks to when she’s stranded on a desert isle with the man who was bringing her back to the U.S. to stand trial). I’m glad her career is getting a modern reassessment lately, there’s something delightfully modern in her performances, and it’s a shame she decided to drop out of the movie business in 1937. I hope more of her titles come to light, maybe even special celebration on TCM one of these days?

Posted By swac44 : May 6, 2013 1:51 pm

I’m jealous about Safe in Hell, I’ve only been able to see one of Mackaill’s films on the big screen to date (which is still more than most people have been able to see), the part-talkie His Captive Woman at Cinefest in Syracuse, and it was a real treat, even though most of her scenes were silent (the flashbacks to when she’s stranded on a desert isle with the man who was bringing her back to the U.S. to stand trial). I’m glad her career is getting a modern reassessment lately, there’s something delightfully modern in her performances, and it’s a shame she decided to drop out of the movie business in 1937. I hope more of her titles come to light, maybe even special celebration on TCM one of these days?

Posted By shadowsandsatin : May 6, 2013 3:37 pm

Hi, Susan — I really enjoyed your write-up! We were at a lot of the same screenings — The Killing, The Narrow Margin, Mildred Pierce, Libeled Lady, Safe in Hell. This was my first year, but I plan to make this an annual event!

Posted By shadowsandsatin : May 6, 2013 3:37 pm

Hi, Susan — I really enjoyed your write-up! We were at a lot of the same screenings — The Killing, The Narrow Margin, Mildred Pierce, Libeled Lady, Safe in Hell. This was my first year, but I plan to make this an annual event!

Posted By Susan Doll : May 6, 2013 3:42 pm

Shadowsandsatin: Thank you so much. What was your favorite movie of those that you saw?

Posted By Susan Doll : May 6, 2013 3:42 pm

Shadowsandsatin: Thank you so much. What was your favorite movie of those that you saw?

Posted By jojo : May 6, 2013 3:53 pm

I have a friend that went two years in a row, and both times she’s come back with the same complaint, that too many movies are competing against each other, and therefore she only gets to see half (actually, this year she said it was less than half) of the movies she’s interested in. Not to mention, no opportunities to catch any spur of the moment “Oh, what the hell” screenings of movies she wasn’t necessarily interested in.

Since I’ve seen similar complaints here and elsewhere, so maybe it’s time TCM added a couple days and some extra repeat screenings to the fest (my friend did say there were repeat screenings added, but again, they were competing against other movies she had an interest in).

Posted By jojo : May 6, 2013 3:53 pm

I have a friend that went two years in a row, and both times she’s come back with the same complaint, that too many movies are competing against each other, and therefore she only gets to see half (actually, this year she said it was less than half) of the movies she’s interested in. Not to mention, no opportunities to catch any spur of the moment “Oh, what the hell” screenings of movies she wasn’t necessarily interested in.

Since I’ve seen similar complaints here and elsewhere, so maybe it’s time TCM added a couple days and some extra repeat screenings to the fest (my friend did say there were repeat screenings added, but again, they were competing against other movies she had an interest in).

Posted By Susan Doll : May 6, 2013 3:57 pm

Jojo: Your friend is right, and I wish I had seen Malcolm McDowell introduce Yankee Doodle Dandy, which competed with another film I opted to see. But as a veteran of many types of film festivals, that is the nature of most fest-going. The exception is Ebertfest, which programs in only one theater.

Posted By Susan Doll : May 6, 2013 3:57 pm

Jojo: Your friend is right, and I wish I had seen Malcolm McDowell introduce Yankee Doodle Dandy, which competed with another film I opted to see. But as a veteran of many types of film festivals, that is the nature of most fest-going. The exception is Ebertfest, which programs in only one theater.

Posted By shadowsandsatin : May 6, 2013 4:00 pm

Susan, of all the movies I saw (I only saw eight), my favorite was Cluny Brown, as it was one of only two (the other was It) that I hadn’t seen before, and it was WONDERFUL. I have to figure out how to get a copy of it — it was so witty and smart and funny, I simply must see it again.

Jojo — it’s interesting that your friend didn’t feel she could catch any “what the hell” screenings — that’s actually exactly how I wound up seeing Libeled Lady! Literally! :o )

Posted By shadowsandsatin : May 6, 2013 4:00 pm

Susan, of all the movies I saw (I only saw eight), my favorite was Cluny Brown, as it was one of only two (the other was It) that I hadn’t seen before, and it was WONDERFUL. I have to figure out how to get a copy of it — it was so witty and smart and funny, I simply must see it again.

Jojo — it’s interesting that your friend didn’t feel she could catch any “what the hell” screenings — that’s actually exactly how I wound up seeing Libeled Lady! Literally! :o )

Posted By AL : May 6, 2013 4:37 pm

Years ago when she was appearing on the MainStage in THAT BAR OFF MELROSE. I was in a play at the smaller Theater, and one night she came to see my show and introduced herself “Hi, I’m Marie Windsor” I cut her off with “No you’re not.” “I’m not?” “No. You’ll always be Sherry Peaty to me…”
She liked that and invited me to a party up on Mulholland where (I’m not kidding) she introduced me to (brace yourself) Cary Grant…

Posted By AL : May 6, 2013 4:37 pm

Years ago when she was appearing on the MainStage in THAT BAR OFF MELROSE. I was in a play at the smaller Theater, and one night she came to see my show and introduced herself “Hi, I’m Marie Windsor” I cut her off with “No you’re not.” “I’m not?” “No. You’ll always be Sherry Peaty to me…”
She liked that and invited me to a party up on Mulholland where (I’m not kidding) she introduced me to (brace yourself) Cary Grant…

Posted By robbushblog : May 6, 2013 5:06 pm

AL- That is quite possibly the coolest story I have ever read about celebrity encounters.

Posted By robbushblog : May 6, 2013 5:06 pm

AL- That is quite possibly the coolest story I have ever read about celebrity encounters.

Posted By robbushblog : May 6, 2013 5:09 pm

Ann Blyth looks amazing! 84? The hell you say! I hope to make it out there one year before all of the old stars are in the heavens.

Posted By robbushblog : May 6, 2013 5:09 pm

Ann Blyth looks amazing! 84? The hell you say! I hope to make it out there one year before all of the old stars are in the heavens.

Posted By Doug : May 6, 2013 10:32 pm

I’m with robbushblog-kudos to Al for sharing his story.
Susan, your post inspired me to do a little filmfest of my own-I just watched “The Killing”-great, great stuff, and am about to put in “Libeled Lady”.
Following another post elsewhere I had recently revisited Timothy Carey’s career-what a guy! As a kid I only knew him as “South Dakota Slim” from Beach Blanket Bingo, but he pops up all over the place.

Posted By Doug : May 6, 2013 10:32 pm

I’m with robbushblog-kudos to Al for sharing his story.
Susan, your post inspired me to do a little filmfest of my own-I just watched “The Killing”-great, great stuff, and am about to put in “Libeled Lady”.
Following another post elsewhere I had recently revisited Timothy Carey’s career-what a guy! As a kid I only knew him as “South Dakota Slim” from Beach Blanket Bingo, but he pops up all over the place.

Posted By jennifromrollamo : May 6, 2013 11:20 pm

Ok Susan,
Ann Blyth didn’t answer why she gave up her career, so I began searching and other than having a family of 5 kids to raise, I couldn’t find any other reason…were you hinting that Ms. Blyth gave up her career for another reason? Thank you for your great post, as some day I hope to attend at least one. :)

Posted By jennifromrollamo : May 6, 2013 11:20 pm

Ok Susan,
Ann Blyth didn’t answer why she gave up her career, so I began searching and other than having a family of 5 kids to raise, I couldn’t find any other reason…were you hinting that Ms. Blyth gave up her career for another reason? Thank you for your great post, as some day I hope to attend at least one. :)

Posted By Susan Doll : May 7, 2013 12:32 am

Al: That is the coolest star story I have every heard. Cary Grant–holy cow!

Posted By Susan Doll : May 7, 2013 12:32 am

Al: That is the coolest star story I have every heard. Cary Grant–holy cow!

Posted By Susan Doll : May 7, 2013 12:37 am

Jenni: Just before Robert Osborne asked her why she retired, Blyth was talking about new Hollywood, new actors, etc., and then stopped herself–like she didn’t want to say anything negative about the films and actors of 1960s-1970s. Golden Age stars were like that. They were taught not to criticize or dismiss any other actors or film people. I think Osborne thought that perhaps her retirement had something to do with changing times. But, she evaded his question to address something else and redirected the conversation. So, the best anyone can do is make assumptions, which could be wrong.

Posted By Susan Doll : May 7, 2013 12:37 am

Jenni: Just before Robert Osborne asked her why she retired, Blyth was talking about new Hollywood, new actors, etc., and then stopped herself–like she didn’t want to say anything negative about the films and actors of 1960s-1970s. Golden Age stars were like that. They were taught not to criticize or dismiss any other actors or film people. I think Osborne thought that perhaps her retirement had something to do with changing times. But, she evaded his question to address something else and redirected the conversation. So, the best anyone can do is make assumptions, which could be wrong.

Posted By jennifromrollamo : May 7, 2013 11:29 am

Thanks for the answer,Susan.

Posted By jennifromrollamo : May 7, 2013 11:29 am

Thanks for the answer,Susan.

Posted By Heidi : May 7, 2013 12:25 pm

Cool AL, thanks for sharing that. Cary Grant-I would have swooned! My closest scrape with stardom-other than the kiss I got from Burt Reynolds at his book signing- was standing in the buffet line with William Shatner after he gave a very, very entertaining talk at a Star Trek Convention. Being the nerd that I am, I couldn’t sleep for days after that! He didn’t seem much taller than me, and I am only 5 feet tall! Gracious and very funny guy. I don’t remember what we chatted (!) about in line either. I just hope I didn’t make a fool of my self!

Posted By Heidi : May 7, 2013 12:25 pm

Cool AL, thanks for sharing that. Cary Grant-I would have swooned! My closest scrape with stardom-other than the kiss I got from Burt Reynolds at his book signing- was standing in the buffet line with William Shatner after he gave a very, very entertaining talk at a Star Trek Convention. Being the nerd that I am, I couldn’t sleep for days after that! He didn’t seem much taller than me, and I am only 5 feet tall! Gracious and very funny guy. I don’t remember what we chatted (!) about in line either. I just hope I didn’t make a fool of my self!

Posted By AL : May 7, 2013 5:15 pm

Susan, Rob, & Heidi. Thank you for your kind words. I should add that before we went in I had hidden my BrownieInstamatic on my person,and that Grant & Windsor graciously posed for a photo. The resulting print is even better than I dared hope for. It’s one of my Treasures; however, one of the great regrets of my life will always be WHY didn’t I have someone else take that picture with ME in it WITH Marie Windsor and Cary Grant! hello!

Posted By AL : May 7, 2013 5:15 pm

Susan, Rob, & Heidi. Thank you for your kind words. I should add that before we went in I had hidden my BrownieInstamatic on my person,and that Grant & Windsor graciously posed for a photo. The resulting print is even better than I dared hope for. It’s one of my Treasures; however, one of the great regrets of my life will always be WHY didn’t I have someone else take that picture with ME in it WITH Marie Windsor and Cary Grant! hello!

Posted By AL : May 7, 2013 5:19 pm

BTW (it’s me again): Lovely Coleen Gray was in a show in that same theater at approx. the same time…

Posted By AL : May 7, 2013 5:19 pm

BTW (it’s me again): Lovely Coleen Gray was in a show in that same theater at approx. the same time…

Posted By Anonymous : May 8, 2013 12:49 pm

Susan, I also caught a double feature of THE KILLING and SAFE IN HELL on opening night. I had never seen THE KILLING, which was probably the highlight of the festival for me. Loved your comment about how different LIBELED LADY looked on the big screen. I’d had a similar reaction the first year of the festival about THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, with so many more details of lighting, sets, and costumes apparent.

I went for the rarities like THE SWIMMER, SCARECROW, LA TRAVERSEE DE PARIS, IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY, and CLUNY BROWN, and was not disappointed in any of them. The conversation with Max von Sydow was another highlight, as was seeing a lovely print of THE SEVENTH SEAL, not the kind of scratchy print common to college film societies. So glad you got to attend!

Posted By Anonymous : May 8, 2013 12:49 pm

Susan, I also caught a double feature of THE KILLING and SAFE IN HELL on opening night. I had never seen THE KILLING, which was probably the highlight of the festival for me. Loved your comment about how different LIBELED LADY looked on the big screen. I’d had a similar reaction the first year of the festival about THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, with so many more details of lighting, sets, and costumes apparent.

I went for the rarities like THE SWIMMER, SCARECROW, LA TRAVERSEE DE PARIS, IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY, and CLUNY BROWN, and was not disappointed in any of them. The conversation with Max von Sydow was another highlight, as was seeing a lovely print of THE SEVENTH SEAL, not the kind of scratchy print common to college film societies. So glad you got to attend!

Posted By jbryant : May 23, 2013 2:02 pm

swac44: Don’t know if you’ll see this in time, but TCM is showing two Dorothy Mackaill features back-to-back this very afternoon (5/23/13): THE OFFICE WIFE (1930) and KEPT HUSBANDS (1931).

Posted By jbryant : May 23, 2013 2:02 pm

swac44: Don’t know if you’ll see this in time, but TCM is showing two Dorothy Mackaill features back-to-back this very afternoon (5/23/13): THE OFFICE WIFE (1930) and KEPT HUSBANDS (1931).

Posted By swac44 : May 23, 2013 3:08 pm

Thanks J, I saw that on the schedule, but I have both of those titles on DVD already from Warner Archive. Hope they show more down the road!

Posted By swac44 : May 23, 2013 3:08 pm

Thanks J, I saw that on the schedule, but I have both of those titles on DVD already from Warner Archive. Hope they show more down the road!

Posted By george : January 12, 2014 2:28 am

I finally saw SAFE IN HELL. Wow! Where has this movie been hiding all my life? I had never seen Dorothy Mackaill in a movie. As others have said, it’s sad her film career ended in the late ’30s.

The more pre-Codes I see by William A. Wellman, the more I think he should be ranked in the top tier of American directors. SAFE IN HELL is so hard-boiled, it makes THELMA AND LOUISE look soft and cuddly.

If you can’t wait for the next TCM showing, SAFE IN HELL can be watched on YouTube.

Posted By Susan Doll : January 12, 2014 5:50 pm

George: I recently obtained a copy of SAFE IN HELL from one of my friends. I also love this movie. I hope there are more gems like this at the 2014 TCM fest.

Posted By george : January 12, 2014 9:43 pm

Susan: I’ll have to keep an eye out for Mackaill movies on TCM and elsewhere. PARTY HUSBAND sounds promising!

After checking Amazon, I see that some of her movies, including SAFE IN HELL, have been released on DVD by Warner Archive.

As for Wellman, LOVE IS A RACKET (with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Ann Dvorak) deserves rediscovery, as I’ve mentioned previously. Ditto for THE HATCHET MAN, if you can get past the white cast in “Oriental” makeup.

Posted By george : January 14, 2014 4:31 am

Another Wellman movie worth seeking out: THE STAR WITNESS. It takes us back to a time (1931) when Civil War veterans were still walking around. That wasn’t so long ago … my parents were born in ’31!

What other director made five good films in one year, as Wellman did in 1931: OTHER MEN’S WOMEN; PUBLIC ENEMY; NIGHT NURSE; STAR WITNESS; and SAFE IN HELL. He could work fast because of the studio machinery; unlike many of today’s directors, he didn’t have to spend a year or two (or more) raising funds for a movie.

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