I Live My Life (1935)

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Spunky, beautiful heiress Kay Bentley (Joan Crawford) decides to go ashore when her father’s yacht docks in the Greek Islands. While there, she meets handsome Irish archaeologist Terry O’Neill (Brian Aherne) on an important dig, and after the standard debutante flirtation-via-irritation method doesn’t work, she decides to try again the next day. Discovering he has no time for useless rich party people, she pretends to be her father’s secretary. It works, and the two spend a romantic day together. He promises to travel to New York City to meet her, but because Kay is a spoiled brat, she has no intention of following through; besides, she never told him her real name. Terry tells his fellow professors and archaeologists, including one Betty Collins, played by a woefully underused Aline MacMahon, that he’s going to New York to get married. Unfortunately, he discovers the woman he has been writing all these months really was the secretary of millionaire industrialist G.P. Bentley (Frank Morgan), and not Kay at all. But in no time Terry discovers Kay’s true identity, that she’s a typical trustafarian with a few dozen upper class twits as friends. A few pointed words later, Terry leaves, and Kay starts to wonder if she really did care about him after all. Joan on a leaning board, with Brian Aherne, W.S. Van Dyke, Fred Keating and Frank Morgan during filming of I Live My Life, courtesy A Certain Cinema.   Kay is meant to be your typical young debutante, the kind … Continue reading

Tasting Menu (2013)

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Tasting Menu ★★★☆☆ Dir: Roger Gual Magnolia Pictures 85 minutes Released in select theaters April 18, 2014     Chakuta, the world-famous restaurant located on the beaches of Spain, is closing its doors after 15 years. Owner and celebrity chef Mar Vidal (Vicenta N’Dongo) has invited 30 guests for the final dinner, and though one would assume these would be no ordinary guests, they are, in fact, the most typical guests in the world. It’s a tidy group of the very vanilla who populate Tasting Menu, and as the evening approaches, widows sit in their living rooms, professionals leave uncomfortable voice mails and businessmen are picked up at the airport, The Divine Comedy’s “I Like” cheerfully underlining the banality of it all. The guests are so boring, in fact, that once the dinner begins, Chakuta’s employees unconsciously manufacture drama just to liven things up. There’s a waiter who can’t seem to get messages and gifts to the proper tables, and manager Max (Andrew Tarbet) not only suspects conspiracy and sabotage at every turn, but deliberately seats competitive businessmen at the same table. Estranged couple Rachel (Claudia Bassols) and Marc (Jan Cornet) lead the ensemble, Rachel’s petty complaints setting the tone of conversation for the night. It seems her husband Marc spends too much time being a successful pediatrician, and saving the lives of children was really cutting into her fabulous best-selling author lifestyle. After their split, Rachel took up with her editor Daniel, played by a truly awful Timothy Gibbs. … Continue reading

Warner Archive: The Girl in the Empty Grave (1977)

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Are you a fan of crazy weird 1970s made-for-TV movies? Then have I got a doozy for you: The Girl in the Empty Grave. What you need to know about this film before you even think about watching it is that Empty Grave was intended as a pilot for a new series starring Andy Griffith, a series possibly meant to be titled “Abel,” after Griffith’s character. The series didn’t take off, but here’s the thing: it didn’t take off all the other times it had been attempted over the previous few years, either. This all began in 1974, when Griffith appeared as Sam McNeill, sheriff of a rural lakeside town in a made-for-TV movie Winter Kill. Airing exactly forty years ago on April 15, 1974, Winter Kill was packed to the gills with TV movie stalwarts, like Joyce Van Patten, Sheree North, John Calvin, Lawrence Pressman, and even a young Nick Nolte. Intended as a pilot, Winter Kill did well enough in its ABC Movie of the Week slot — no surprise, considering it was written by John Michael Hayes — but ABC declined to turn it into a series. But Winter Kill had been based on producer-writer Lane Slate’s They Only Kill Their Masters (1972), released theatrically by MGM and starring James Garner as small-town sheriff Abel Marsh. Slate picked up the idea and tried again, not before changing the main character’s name once more — this time to Sam Adams — and removing some of the seedier aspects … Continue reading

Elsewhere!

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Regis Toomey, Dick Powell and Richard Erdman in Cry Danger (1951).     I neglect SBBN so often it seems pointless to even apologize anymore, but I promise, a couple of new posts are coming shortly, and finally (finally!) I’ll start on the series-shaped thing I spoke about, probably in the coming weeks. Thanks to the moons aligning just right, I’ve had over two weeks of deadlines which have clumped together like a JV soccer team, so on the days I’m not writing, I’m just munching on snacks and staring at movies and then forgetting to log them on Letterboxd. Even if it means hilarious amounts of B12, I will get my ass in gear and get some content up. But first, a little self pimpage in the form of a somewhat incomplete list of articles I’ve written around the interhole recently. If that’s not your thing, scroll down for other articles from around the web toward the bottom of this post — a lot of people have been writing a lot of neat stuff lately, and you’ll definitely want to check those out. – * Cry Danger (1951): I first saw this unheralded little noir about a year ago, when I saw people on Twitter under the #TCMParty hashtag mention a woman with an enormous black flower on her dress. Later I discovered the film was restored thanks, in part, to the 2010 For the Love of Film Blogathon, and recently I had the great luck to be able … Continue reading

No Foolin’: Marie Prevost Marathon April 16th on TCM!

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Some exciting news from the world of lost silents: Courtesy Rhett Bartlett on Twitter and David Hudson’s Daily, news that EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam has discovered more silent films that were either thought lost or existed only in poor and incomplete prints. The L.A. Times article is here, and the entire list of films is here. Keen-eyed observers will note the Mack Sennett short “The Village Chestnut” (1918) is among the films. This has long been considered lost, though with the bog standard “it’s probably in an archive somewhere” rumors, which for once turned out to be right. Marie Prevost may be one of the Bathing Beauty extras, along with Phyllis Haver and Harriet Hammond, and it’ll be a real treat to finally have a chance to see this short. Above: Promotional still from “The Village Chestnut” (1918). The brown-haired girl in the far back may be Marie Prevost; compare to this famous portrait of Marie from about that time: And even more good news! TCM is hosting a day-long, eight-film Marie Prevost marathon on April 16th! Why April 16th? Why only one silent film and no Mack Sennett shorts? And why does this have to happen after I’ve had to give up cable because I can no longer afford it? No man can say. But let’s not look a gift marathon in the mouth; we should just enjoy what we’ve got, because what we’ve got is good. Here’s the low-down on all the Marie films being shown. All times … Continue reading

Happy Birthday to the Best Shatner We Could Ever Hope For

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William Shatner Born March 22, 1931       Courtesy Star Trek Daily Pic                             Detail from the 1967 “Star Blecch” parody Shatner and Nimoy were reading in the pictures above. You can find my Flickr set of all the original artwork by Mort Drucker from this parody here.     This detail of the 1976 Mad Magazine parody courtesy My Star Trek Scrapbook, where you can find the entire “Star Trek: The Musical.”     Kirstie Alley asking herself, “Why didn’t I think of that?”     Album picture courtesy Frank’s Vinyl Museum.     Shatner!    

Roadblock (1951)

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There’s probably not such a thing as a nice, quiet little film noir, but Roadblock is as close as you can get. It’s likely that director Harold Daniels just stumbled in to this low-key style that works so nicely within the genre — Daniels was known for very little except television and those terrible horror flicks that inevitably starred a Chaney or a Carradine — but we’re all thankful, however he arrived at it, because Roadblock is a real gem of a film. Spiffy credits!   Joe Peters and Harry Miller are two hard-hitting insurance investigators, the old-fashioned P.I. type that became a staple of the noir genre in the late 1940s, who aren’t just partners but pals. When flying home after a job, Joe (Charles McGraw) finds himself as a patsy for the beautiful Diane (Joan Dixon), who uses him to get a discount married rate — and to have another name — on her plane ticket. Irritated but intrigued, Joe lets himself fall for Diane after the plane is forced to land in a small town, where poor Canadian actor John Butler as the hotel manager tries for a down-home Southern Missouri accent but achieves some weird dialect that sounds like Appalachia by way of Brooklyn. Even after Diane tells him that she’s looking for a man with money, the kind of guy who will set her up in a nice place with nice clothes, Joe can’t get her out of his mind. Days later, as Joe follows … Continue reading

Elsewhere This Week

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Here’s what I’ve been working on this week here at SBBN and elsewhere, as well as nifty bits of things from around the internets. * The Sandpiper (1965) at Spectrum Culture for the Oeuvre series. It’s not the film’s fault that supporting actor Chuck Bronson became a cultural icon a few years after The Sandpiper, but you still have to laugh at him jabbing away at the nude sculpture, pretending to use Liz as a model; he just destroys the thing, obviously chipping wood away from the finished product, which sadly wasn’t very good to begin with — the nipples were crooked and it looked like Sally Kellerman more than Elizabeth Taylor, anyway. Your chuckles will devolve into full-blown guffaws when he growls, “You gonna seduce him?” to Liz, but that’s okay, you’ll cheer your head off when he punches the hell out of Burton, and if you’re sane, as Burton comes to, you’ll turn The Sandpiper off and go watch Death Wish again. * U Want Me 2 Kill Him? on SBBN. Don’t let the terrible title, occasionally stylized as uwantme2killhim?, turn you off. This is a nice, tight little thriller, with an understated tone that works really well with the subject matter; as Mark (Jamie Blackley) gets further sucked into the strange tales he reads in chat rooms, everything is so downplayed that you wonder if there’s some actual truth there. * The Art of the Steal at Spectrum Culture. Yet another film I liked better than most … Continue reading

Glickman (2013)

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Described as the first jock turned broadcaster in history, Marty Glickman began what would become an exceptional sports career while attending high school in Brooklyn. The HBO documentary Glickman (2013), now out from Warner Archive, traces Marty’s path from his difficult childhood to becoming a New York City phenomenon known as the “Flatbush Flash,” for his phenomenal performance in track and field, setting speed records and winning state and national sprinting events. 17-year-old Marty Glickman in 1935.   Marty’s successes in sports were important not just to him and his family, but to the entire community, especially other Jewish kids in New York City. Actor/comedian Jerry Stiller speaks of how Glickman became almost a superhero, a claim borne out by the host of newspaper articles and stories written to capitalize on his popularity. With his amazing ability, it was no surprise Glickman made it to the 1936 Summer Olympics, on the same team as Jesse Owens, Ralph Metcalfe and Sam Stoller, among others. But tensions were high at the Berlin Olympics that year, and the United States almost didn’t attend following protests from a variety of groups concerned that the event would give Adolph Hitler international legitimacy. Apparently most concerned that Jews were not allowed on the German Olympic teams, the U.S. was pacified when a token Jewish athlete was added; once the U.S. agreed to participate, the Jewish athlete was removed from Germany’s roster before the games officially began. During the games, Jesse Owens won three gold medals. Hitler … Continue reading

U Want Me 2 Kill Him? (2013)

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U Want Me 2 Kill Him? ★★★★☆ Dir: Andrew Douglas Tribeca Films 92 minutes Released in select theaters March 14, 2014. VOD available on February 25, 2014.   U Want Me 2 Kill Him? opens with a date: June 29, 2003. This date is not merely an indicator of the real life events that inspired it, but to anchor the film to a certain moment in culture, a time when society was still in the early stages of learning to live with a constant, low-level fear after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the kind of paranoia many had hoped were shaken off permanently at the end of the Cold War. This paranoia is heightened by both the spectre of constant surveillance and its actuality, namely in the CCTV cameras that clutter the London landscape, recording every move. That 16-year-old Mark chooses to stay home is no surprise; what is a surprise is Mark’s willingness to leave his own webcam on constantly, allowing all those he chats with online to watch him as he just walks around his room or does a few sit-ups. Mark never notices that he’s the only one in the conversations with a webcam on. Even though Mark (Jamie Blackley) has his share of hook-ups, the dames in the world of U Want Me 2 Kill Him? are nothing but trouble, and his true affections are saved for the lovely Rachel, a young blonde he only knows through an internet chat room. Night after night, Rachel talks … Continue reading