Cabin in the Cotton (1932)

“Cabin in the Cotton” (1932) is the story of the struggle between wealthy landowners and their farming tenants in the rural South, and is most notable for Bette Davis’ supporting role as Madge Norwood, the beautiful blonde daughter of a landowner. The film begins with a written notice that the producers don’t intend to take sides in the conflict between the poor tenants and the rich landlords. During this introduction, we’re told that the tenants are known as “peckerwoods,” as though the term means “poor cotton picker”. As we all know, it means much more than that. I wondered through most of the film if I was supposed to take the use of the word as a crass insult or as a regional peculiarity; the IMDb trivia section indicates that director Michael Curtiz simply didn’t know what a “peckerwood” was, which may explain the confusion. The scene opens with Mr. Norwood, played aptly by Burton Churchill with the most accurate Southern accent I’ve yet heard on film, surveying the work of poor tenant workers picking cotton on his fields. This family of tenants is ragged and tired and the father has recently been sick. Norwood wants to know where their oldest boy is. Tom (the father) explains he’s in school, but Norwood demands the boy be taken out of school so he can pick cotton in Norwood’s fields. The boy is Marvin, played by Richard Barthelmess. He returns home after school to find his father resting after a hard day. … Continue reading

Casino Royale (1967)

“Critical judgements are irrelevant with a film like ‘Casino Royale.’ Robert Murphy considers it one of those films ‘which ought to be shipped to a desert island and screened continuously by those responsible for them.’” James Chapman, License to Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films   “At one time or another, ‘Casino Royale’ undoubtedly had a shooting schedule, a script and a plot. If any one of the three ever turns up, it might be the making of a good movie. In the meantime, the present version is a definitive example of what can happen when everybody working on a film goes simultaneously berserk.” – Roger Ebert   “The guy who played Bond (David Niven) was so cheesy it was pathetic. I think it’s sad and almost ironic that you have this spectacular franchise and yet the first Fleming book, the beginning of the 007 legacy, was given such shabby treatment”. – Quentin Tarantino   “What do you think of the criticism that you’re not very good?” – Interviewer “We’re not.” – George Harrison   “The often criticized inconsistencies of the film’s multiple James Bonds, including the banal 007 of Terence Cooper, brought in to cover Sellers’s unfinished characterization, intentionally work to confuse the issue of Bond, to overwork the paradigm until it has no value… Here, the most unique icon of the era is intentionally made common — a fashion, a fad, a façade: the multiple Bonds are all copies of a first copy…” – Robert … Continue reading

Doll Face (1946)

“Doll Face” (1946) is a musical comedy written by Gypsy Rose Lee, based on her early-40s semi-autobiographical play “The Naked Genius”. It co-stars Dennis O’Keefe, Carmen Miranda and Perry Como in one of the only 4 film roles he ever appeared in. The musical acts in “Doll Face” are often cited as the film’s strong point, as is the zingy dialogue. However, the thin plot is only occasionally spruced up by snappy dialogue, and the sparsely populated dance numbers are far less entertaining than they were intended to be. The music is derivative and occasionally tasteless, which is surprising as the music was written by two important songwriters of the 1940s, Jimmy McHugh (music, “I’m in the Mood for Love”) and Harold Adamson (lyrics, “It’s a Wonderful World”). It’s hard not to notice the opening musical introduction sounds extremely similar to “The Five O’Clock Whistle,” more so than an original composition should. Further, the first song of the film is “Somebody’s Walking in My Dream”, written in 1946 for the film, but which again is suspiciously similar to the 1942 Otis Rene classic “Someone’s Rocking My Dreamboat”. “Somebody’s Walking in My Dream” is the featured ballad and it appears at least three times during the film in what must have been a money-saving maneuver. “Doll Face” begins with a beautiful young singer, played by Vivian Blaine, and her manager Mike (Dennis O’Keefe) in the wings of a theater, anxiously awaiting a chance for her to audition in front of Broadway … Continue reading

Skidoo (between the 1 and 3 there is a 2)

The benevolent gods at TCM have decided to bestow a rare treat on us tomorrow night: the 1968 cult film “Skidoo”, directed by Otto Preminger and starring a couple dozen actors who must have wondered what the hell they were thinking. “Skidoo” is on at 2:00 AM Eastern, January 5th, which is late Friday or early Saturday, depending on how you swing. It’s part of TCM’s Underground series. UPDATE: I should note that some cable guides and Tivo are reporting incorrect airing information. Also, this will not be shown in letterbox; the cost of rights for the letterbox version was too prohibitive. I’ve seen the pan ‘n’ scan version and it’s still worthwhile. I won’t spoil it for you, but I thought I’d set the scene a bit. “Skidoo” is about Jackie Gleason, a legitimate business owner who finds himself in debt to the mob. He goes under cover as a prisoner to pay his debt back to the mob. Meanwhile his daughter falls for a hippie (John Phillip Law), drugs are consumed, and musical interludes involving asparagus and trash cans ensue. This is not a good movie, but it is fun. Lord, is it fun. It’s a product of an old school Hollywood system which didn’t — and couldn’t — have understood what the youth of the late 60s was really about, so they created caricatures which must have rung as false in 1968 as they do today. There’s lots of jokes about guys with long hair looking like … Continue reading