Recently Watched: The Blackbird (1926)

Lon Chaney and Tod Browning collaborated ten times in their too-brief careers, beginning with The Wicked Darling in 1919 and ending in 1929 with Where East is East. Lon Chaney died in 1930, and Tod Browning’s career effectively died just two years after that with his film Freaks. Two of my favorite films are Chaney-Browning collaborations: The Unknown (1927) and West of Zanzibar (1928). The first time I saw The Unknown was on TCM in a sepia tone print. I’m not sure anyone believes me, but my husband saw it too so I know that it’s not my faulty memory. That particular print was shown a few times, then when I finally got around to recording the film off TCM, they’d changed to the black & white print. I miss the inauthentic sepia toned version! But hey, were not here to talk about The Unknown, but about The Blackbird. For a very long time, Chaney was my favorite actor. In retrospect, I’ve discovered that was mainly because silents were new to me, as were the edgier horror films Chaney starred in; over time, my interest in both has waned. It’s not that I dislike Chaney, it’s just that he had a gimmick which wore thin after a while. By the time I sat down to watch The Blackbird a couple of months ago — the 15th Chaney film I’ve seen — I was at a point where I could have gone my whole life without seeing Chaney yet again play … Continue reading

Marie Prevost Project: Sporting Blood (1931)

Sporting Blood is about a horse named Tommy Boy, his breeder Jim Rellence (Ernest Torrence), the flighty dame who wants him as a toy (Marie Prevost), and a bunch of vague mobsters. According to some promo material and archive info, this was originally called Horseflesh, which is creepy and a little weird. Our story: After race horse breeder Rellence regretfully sells Tommy Boy to a client, the horse wins a race that rich brat Angie Ludeking (Prevost) has bet on. She decides she wants the horse for herself and, being rich and spoiled, she gets her way. But the horse loses its next race because of a fix pulled off by mobster Tip Scanlon (Lew Cody). Later that night, Tip wins the horse in a rigged poker game and begins to use Tommy Boy in more fixed races. At 43 minutes into the movie, we finally see the headlining stars: Clark Gable as Rid, a dealer in Tip’s casino, and Madge Evans as Ruby, a girl who works the floor and is kept by Tip. Complications arise because Rid and Ruby are in love but can’t get away from the dangerous Tip. They both oppose Tommy Boy being abused for the sake of those fixed races, too, but the abuse ends when Tip guarantees Tommy Boy will win a race that he ends up losing. Tip’s mobster friends, angry that they lost all their dough because Tommy Boy didn’t win the race, kill Tip, which is convenient for all concerned. … Continue reading

Flappers, Kreativity, and Art Deco

A few things, then some pretty pretty pictures. Do you love flappers? Sure, we all do! That’s why I want to direct you to Flapperdoodle Kate’s sale at Etsy: Until January 21, she is selling her mini-prints for $1 each. One. Dollar. Her art is amazing and her flappers are adorable, so $1 for a 4×6 print is a huge steal. HUGE. Do not miss this sale! Next, I want to thank Aleata at GoreGoreDancer Movie Reviews and Ivan at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear for nominating me for the Kreativ Blogger Award. UPDATE: Princess Fire and Music also nominated me, and I’m a big hairy toad for not noticing it earlier. Thank you! For getting the Kreativ Blog Award I: 1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award. Check. 2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog. Check. 3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award. Check. 4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting. Okay, here goes: * I used to play Spanish-Classical guitar and even won a full ride scholarship to Northwestern. The scholarship didn’t include room and board, and I was slightly disowned by my parents at the time, so I didn’t go. * Online (and in real life when I can get away with it) I refuse to name what high school I went to because I don’t want anyone from there finding me. * I rarely watch TV, only TCM and my DVDs, and I … Continue reading

Recently Watched: The Light Touch (1951) & The Whole Truth (1958)

“You can’t smell a rose through somebody else’s nose.” George Sanders being given all the best lines in The Light Touch (1951)   “The Light Touch” is a nice little film but not very original. Set mostly in Sicily and Tunis, it’s a crime caper that’s one part “Casablanca” and one part “Maltese Falcon”. Sam Conride (Stewart Granger) is an art thief who steals a small religious painting from a museum, a painting on loan from the provincial Sicilian church it usually hangs in. He steals it for his partner Felix (George Sanders) but schemes to make it seem that the painting burned when his boat to Tunis caught fire. Felix is never quite sure Sam is telling the truth, and Felix’s henchmen Anton and Charles (epic character actors Norman Lloyd and Mike Mazurki, respectively) spend a lot of time searching for the painting. Meanwhile, Sam plots to have the painting copied by young local artist Anna (played by a very young looking Pier Angeli.) He tricks the naive girl into painting a copy, meanwhile convincing Felix that they will go in on selling the fake painting together. While he scams Anna and Felix, he secretly plans to sell the original to another buyer. Eventually Felix talks Sam into marrying Anna to keep her quiet about selling a fake of the painting, but she discovers the plan within minutes of getting married, of course. Just as their honeymoon ship sails, Felix finds out that Sam had the original painting all … Continue reading

The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945)

This is the movie that made me a Jack Benny fan. My path to being a Benny fan was a weird one, and for years I honestly loathed the man. Actually, there was nothing honest about it, as all I knew about Benny came from my parents. As a kid, my friends’ parents would reminisce about the Beatles and “Gilligan’s Island” and other pop culture from the 60s. My own parents, a generation older, thought back fondly to radio shows and early television where advertisements were worked into the plot of the show. They preferred a show where the Carnation spokesman would walk into Gracie Allen’s kitchen and start telling everyone about contented cows, and they groused about show-stopping commercial breaks louder than Alfred Hitchcock ever did. And they loved Jack Benny. Adored him. Oh god, I don’t think a week went by without one of my parents shouting “Rochester!” or threatening to start telling people they were 39 years old for the rest of their lives. Every few weeks one would ask out loud, “What was that film that ruined Jack Benny’s career?” and the other would answer, “The Horn Blows at Midnight!” I exaggerate a bit, but I’m pretty sure I hated Benny and HBaM by the time I was a wee 10-year-old. I was in my 20s before I stopped rebelling against my parents and paying attention to Benny’s actual performances, but I submit that if you knew my parents’ taste in entertainment, you’d understand that my … Continue reading

Bette Davis Project #7: “The Man Who Played God” (1932)

Let’s just get this out of the way: George Arliss is damned creepy. His face looks like a naked skull, and the over-dark lipstick, eyeliner, and what I think is makeup around his nostrils freak me the hell out. In “The Man Who Played God” (1932), Arliss — who was the lead in the 1920s stage play, the 1922 film version, and the 1932 version here — plays the improbably named Montgomery Royale, internationally famous pianist. Women want him so badly that they accost him constantly as he tries to walk back to his hotel room. Yeah. Look at this face and tell me if you think women of all ages would accost this man because of his sex appeal: That’s straight up Phantom of the Fucking Opera right there, my friends. UGH. If he didn’t rely on such grotesque faces for emotion and if he wasn’t made up so ridiculously, he probably wouldn’t look as hideous. As he appears in most films, though, he just looks like a freakier John D. Rockefeller. Okay, so 137 year old freakshow 64 year old Montgomery Royale is touring Europe with his sister-slash-secretary and his butler. He is currently in Paris. American friends Grace Blair (Bette Davis) and Mildred Miller (Violet Heming) are also in the city to watch him perform. Grace, over 40 years younger than Monty, is in love with him. Mildred, not yet in her 40s, is also in love with him, but she deliberately waits for him to approach … Continue reading

Recently Watched: The All-Corpse Edition

Before I forget, I want to mention I am now posting to my Twitter when I update the blog. I’m not very wise in the ways of Twitter, so the hashtag #sbbn I automatically add to the tweets may or may not be appropriate. You’ll tell me if I’m doing it wrong, right? Right? I’ll pretend you all said yes. *** It’s been zombielicious around Casa de la Stacia lately, partly because Halloween wasn’t that long ago, and partly because, hey, zombies. The first zombie film in the batch I recently watched was the cult classic “White Zombie” (1932). This was something I recorded on Halloween of 2008, which tells you a bit about the backlog of films I’ve got. “White Zombie” is a pre-code talkie as well as a horror film in the early Universal vein. Although it was filmed for RKO Pathe, its sets were on the Universal lot, and many props and set pieces from Universal horror films made their way into “White Zombie.” The movie resembles other very early 30s films which use sound sparingly and utilize silent-era expressionist techniques of framing and shadow. Most of the shots in “White Zombie” have a very subtle dark circle around the frame as well; if you turn off the sound and put the film in a slight fast forward, it looks like a beautiful flickering European silent. Bela is arguably at his sexiest in “White Zombie”, although one has to look past the unfortunate eyebrows glued to his … Continue reading