Posted by davidkalat on September 29, 2012
We come upon three men and a naked lady.
The lady is Thelma Todd, denuded as she often was in her brief screen career.
One of the men is Roland Young, a womanizing roué who has brought her home in this state. The other, Charlie Ruggles, is his mostly useless sidekick. The third man? Well, that’d be Thelma’s husband–known to be a fiercely jealous man. He is also an Olympic javelin thrower (Yes. That’s right). Oh, and he has a quiver of javelins with him.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the screen debut of Cary Grant. It is not an especially auspicious performance–Grant is quoted in numerous sources as disliking his contribution to this film. But it is for our purposes an extremely illuminating one.
Here is a film that behaves like a modern dialogue-driven romantic comedy, but which is comprised of the DNA of silent comedy. Here is a missing link between one animal and the other–a glimpse into the evolution of talkie comedy. And it all hinges on Cary Grant.
Posted by davidkalat on September 22, 2012
I’ve been postponing this for years, waiting for what I wrongly assumed was the imminent DVD restoration of an important and greatly enjoyable comedy from the transitional talkie era. But I’m only human and can’t wait forever. This week will be a rough go for anyone who prefers to read about movies they’ve seen or have the option of seeing–and I’ll count myself squarely in that camp. If someone else wrote this I wouldn’t read it. But the day will come when Modern Love is available on DVD, maybe even Blu Ray, and if I help build up a hungry audience to welcome that eventual release with enthusiasm and appreciation, then I’m happy.
Posted by davidkalat on September 15, 2012
Charley Chase was one of the funniest, most widely talented, most important, and most influential comedians of the early 20th century. I’m not even going to bother to argue that statement, it is simply a fact—the way that 2+2=4 is a fact. However, Charely Chase did his work in shorts, not features. With one exception, he did not star in a feature-length comedy, despite a career in movies that spanned over a quarter century. The film critical establishment has historically held a pronounced bias in favor of features, which has meant that by definition Charley Chase’s extraordinary accomplishments and legacy are seen as secondary in stature.
Posted by Susan Doll on August 27, 2012
Earlier this month, the Morlocks participated in a blogathon in which we explored the films of Toshiro Mifune, the legendary Japanese movie star who was part of TCM’s Summer Under the Stars. While I was happy to give one of the worlds’ most talented actors his due, my first choice for the blogathon was Warren William, who will be spotlighted this Thursday, August 30.
Warren William is largely forgotten today, though he was a prolific film actor for Warner Bros. during the Depression. He did not have the reputation or long career of peers Jimmy Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, or William Powell, but William makes an interesting study for a couple of reasons. The Warner Bros. films of the early 1930s were ripped from the headlines of the day. They featured characters who struggled with issues of employment whether they were scrambling for a job, conniving to keep their job, or turning to crime because legitimate work eluded them. William’s urbane, well-dressed persona was suited to this hard-scrabble world because he could play the cold-hearted millionaires, abusive bosses, and society sophisticates who clashed with the working folk. Also, his career peaked in the early to mid-1930s, which parallels most of the pre-Code era (1930 to 1934). Several of William’s films include the edgy situations, randy characters, and provocative dialogue that we have all come to love about pre-Code movies.
Posted by davidkalat on August 18, 2012
Last week I began a cycle of talking through how the transition to talkies affected the development of American screen comedy, and to continue in this vein we need to take a moment to talk through what that transition was all about. The Jazz Singer has persisted in posterity and popular memory far in excess of the merits of its actual content–it is however remembered as a revolutionary picture, one that precipitated a sudden reorientation of the industry. But the real story behind the switch to talkies is messier–and doesn’t have much of anything to do with The Jazz Singer. It is instead a story about the dynamics of format wars.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on July 24, 2012
This astounding publicity shot of a screwfaced James Cagney reluctantly probing the shoulder of a coolly admiring Claire Dodd should sell anyone on the value of Hard To Handle (1933), or of the two new volumes of WB’s Forbidden Hollywood DVD series that is releasing it. The way Cagney separates his left ring and pinky fingers – as if he couldn’t bear to put the effort into using all five digits – exemplifies his casual mastery (even in PR shoots!) in fleshing out the con-artist cads he played throughout this period. And this is only one of the pleasures found within volumes 4 and 5 of the series, which includes a trio of treats from director William Dieterle, and snappy banter from the likes of Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Blondell. The last edition appeared in 2009, containing a bevy of depression-scarred William Wellman films, but as DVD sales have continued to crater, so has the prominence of this series, with the new editions being released on WB’s movies-on-demand line, the Warner Archive.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on August 23, 2011
Joan Blondell made herself at home in the cinema. Regardless of the plot or set decoration, Blondell would adjust her sheer stockings and plop into a seat as if she was at a cuckolded boyfriend’s pad. This Warner Brothers working class goddess buckled knees with this studied insouciance, a glamour of gum-smacking nonchalance. Our blog-a-thon has been counting down the days until the Blondell-bonanza on August 24th, her day on TCM’s Summer Under the Stars. Earlier this week Jeff discussed the James Cagney-Blondell pairing Blonde Crazy (1931), and today I’ll take a look at their subsequent film together, Howard Hawks’ The Crowd Roars (1932).
Posted by davidkalat on July 16, 2011
The comments section to last week’s post developed a thread regarding the legacy of Harry Langdon, a comedian dear to my heart. Some of y’all said what I was going to say already, but nevertheless I feel it incumbent on me to step forward and explain my own position more clearly in this space. I haven’t really written about Langdon here in part because I wanted my work on the Harry Langdon DVD box to serve as my word on the subject, but also because I realize that Langdon is a love-him-or-hate-him performer, and I don’t like to argue about opinions. If you don’t care for Langdon, that’s not something that’s open to debate.
The comments thread was initiated by Jeff H. who asserted this position:
Langdon relied more on his team of people like Frank Capra and Harry Edwards, without realizing that the character that made him so beloved was created for him, not by him. If you want proof of that, watch THE STRONG MAN, with Capra and his team then watch THREE’S A CROWD, which Langdon made after he fired Capra-there is no comparison.
That’s more a question of fact, not opinion, and it’s worth digging into it in more detail.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on May 17, 2011
One of Sam Fuller’s most personal films, Park Row (1952), has been released on DVD through MGM’s burn-on-demand service, the “Limited Edition Collection” (available through Amazon and other retailers). Inspired by his time as a copy-boy for Hearst’s New York Journal and as a crime reporter for the New York Graphic, it is an impassioned paean to American journalism, opening with a scroll of the 1,772 active daily papers at the time (in 2009 the numbers were down to 1,387). I can confirm that the listed Waukesha Daily Freeman is still running, with reasonable subscription rates. Fuller’s artistic temperament was formed in his ink-stained years, as he wanted his films to have the visceral impact and clarity of a 100 point size headline. Park Row is his gift to the business that made him. MGM’s DVD is presented in a solid if unspectacular transfer, with strong contrast. It includes a trailer.
Posted by moirafinnie on May 11, 2011
Please Note: In Tribute to Jackie Cooper, on Friday, May 13th TCM will broadcast nine of the actor’s films, which are listed here.
Jackie Cooper, who was an Oscar nominee for Best Actor in a Leading Role when he was only nine, died on May 3rd at the age of 88. His shy smile, seemingly artless candor, and innate ability to suggest an overwhelmed child’s desire to make everything all right in the world continues to make those who stumble on his films smile in recognition.
If your most vivid mental image of Jackie Cooper is still as one of the ragamuffins in Hal Roach’s The Little Rascals, or the boy pleading with The Champ (1931-King Vidor) to rise again, or the privileged child befriending a kid from Shantytown in his Oscar-nominated performance in Skippy (1931-Norman Taurog), that’s understandable. Despite the fact that his early performances are eight decades in the past, his wonderfully natural portrayal of boys on film are still painfully fresh and have an evergreen realism at their core. In the darkest years of the Great Depression audiences felt a connection to that innocent, lion-hearted kid on screen whose life wasn’t going any more smoothly than their own. I like Shirley Temple, Jane Withers, and Freddie Bartholomew very much. I’ve been astounded by Mickey Rooney’s seemingly boundless talent. Yet to me, Jackie Cooper was one of most natural child actors, even though he had a different, understandably complex perspective on his own work. “I wasn’t great,” he claimed. “The directors were great. I was just a kid who did what he was told. And what I wasn’t told to do was done for me.”
His son, Russell Cooper, commented that his father “was a fascinating guy who really did everything, from all different aspects of the business. You can’t really say that about many people.” Looking back at Cooper‘s long life, when he acted in over a hundred movies, plays and television shows, and directed and produced over 250 TV projects, it seems that he may have done everything but sweep up the stage–and, as an apparently down-to-earth person–he probably did that at least a few times.
Much of Cooper‘s acting has a similar, recognizable quality, as he personified a kind of ragged moxie laced with a guileless intensity. Even when the stories were schmaltzy, he was not. As he grew up, and seemed likely to succumb to the neglect and adulation that early fame often breeds, he eventually approached his later problems with a similar ingenuousness as he struggled to become an adult in real ways. As he later pointed out about his childhood career, “I was trained to be a professional, not to be a person.”
MovieMorlocks.com is the official blog for TCM. No topic is too obscure or niche to be excluded from our film discussions. And we welcome your comments on our blogs and bloggers.
Popular terms3-D Action Films Actors Actors' Endorsements Actresses animal stars Animation Anime Anthology Films Autobiography Avant-Garde Aviation Awards B-movies Beer in Film Behind the Scenes Best of the Year lists Biography Biopics Blu-Ray Books on Film Boxing films British Cinema Canadian Cinema Character Actors Chicago Film History Cinematography Classic Films College Life on Film Comedy Comic Book Movies Crime Czech Film Dance on Film Digital Cinema Directors Disaster Films Documentary Drama DVD Early Talkies Editing Educational Films European Influence on American Cinema Experimental Exploitation Fairy Tales on Film Faith or Christian-based Films Family Films Fan Edits Film Composers Film Criticism film festivals Film History in Florida Film Noir Film Scholars Film titles Filmmaking Techniques Films of the 1980s Food in Film Foreign Film French Film Gangster films Genre Genre spoofs Guest Programmers HD & Blu-Ray Holiday Movies Hollywood history Hollywood lifestyles Horror Horror Movies Icons independent film Italian Film Japanese Film Korean Film Leadership Literary Adaptations Martial Arts Melodramas Method Acting Mexican Cinema Moguls Monster Movies Movie Books Movie Costumes Movie locations Movie lovers Movie Magazines Movie Reviewers Movie settings Movie Stars Movies about movies Music in Film Musicals New Releases Outdoor Cinema Paranoid Thrillers Parenting on film Pirate movies Polish film industry political thrillers Politics in Film Pornography Pre-Code Producers Race in American Film Remakes Revenge Road Movies Romance Romantic Comedies Russian Film Industry Satire Scandals Science Fiction Screenwriters Semi-documentaries Serials Short Films Silent Film silent films Social Problem Film Spaghetti Westerns Sports Sports on Film Stereotypes Straight-to-DVD Studio Politics Stunts and stuntmen Suspense thriller Swashbucklers TCM Classic Film Festival Tearjerkers Television The British in Hollywood The Germans in Hollywood The Hungarians in Hollywood The Irish in Hollywood The Russians in Hollywood Theaters Thriller Trains in movies Underground Cinema VOD War film Westerns Women in the Film Industry Women's Weepies