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REVIEW: The Bad News Bears (1976) Dir. Michael Ritchie

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It’s hard to imagine a film like the Bad News Bears being made today. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine any film made today that actually talks to kids seriously about the pressures and the real pain of growing up during middle school. The pain is made real in “Bears” through a Los Angeles Little League team who are not only troubled because they consistently lose at ever game, but each kid is equally troubled in their personal lives with real, serious issues. Issues such as child abuse, bad coaches, kids with eating disorders, a loner rebel child who deep down really is lonely, a small boy with anger issues, a kid who can’t stand up for himself, a black kid pressured by his family to be an athlete, a girl pitcher, trying to shed the image of being a tomboy and on the brink of puberty….the list goes on. This is a comedy of course, and the kids do and say hilarious things throughout the film that make them more real. But underneath the comedy is a story of deep pain and struggle as each kid tries to overcome their own personal issues. They try to overcome it together, as a team, in their struggle to reach the championships, make something of themselves, and tell the world who they really are.

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Leading the way is Coach Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) with plenty of problems of his own as an alcoholic and constant smoker. He was also a former player for the Major Leagues. When Buttermaker starts out with the team, they are as low as he is as losers. But as they say sometimes, misery loves company, and amazingly he has a way with talking to these kids, never talking down to them and treating them as equals. The kids of course have no problem talking back to him when they think he’s a pain in the ass, or they just want him to shut up so they can do their thing. But for all of Buttermaker’s personal struggles, he brings a good amount of compassion and support for these kids. One of my favorite scenes in the film is in the beginning. After a disastrous game, the young black boy Ahmad runs off. He strips his uniform off down to his underwear and climbs up in a tree feeling ashamed and embarrassed by the loss. When Buttermaker finds him, he climbs the tree and talks to him. Ahmad starts talking to him and telling him about his struggles at home, that his older brothers are better athletes than him, and he deals with harsh pressure from his family to be an athlete too soon. Buttermaker’s talk with him is beautiful and real, and he manages to tap into the little bright essence of the kid still in there (the confidence in himself), to where Ahmad even admits at the end, “I am pretty fast, aren’t I?”

What’s great about this movie is Buttermakers personal transformation as the film goes on, because when the team starts to pull itself up and win games, Buttermaker actually starts getting more abusive towards the kids. His personal ambition to win (not just for the team but a personal need to show everyone he’s not a loser drunk and a failure), he does a lot of terrible things. He tells the star player to catch every fly ball to ensure they will win, leading the other kids to get angry at that boy. He tells a kid who’s shy to let himself get hit by the ball when he’s at bat so he can walk. The kid is afraid and doesn’t want to get hurt. There are several scenes throughout the film that are harsh, with kids being brutal to each other, bullying, and calling each other names. Another one of my favorite scenes is when the fat kid Engelberg is up to bat, and the pitcher kid from the other team taunts and bullys him through the game. But then in the middle of the game, we witness the pitchers father (his coach), slap him down in the middle of the field, to the point where the boy becomes enraged at him and lets Engelberg walk the bases. It’s an incredible turning point for both characters.

I can’t go on though without talking about my favorite character in the film, Tanner Boyle, the young hot headed kid who is also the fighting spirit of the team when everyone is ready to give up. When everyone is ready to quit because the team is being bullied at school, Buttermaker hears that Tanner “took on the entire 7th grade”. He sees Tanner, with a cut lip, and says, “You wanna quit too, Tanner?” and Tanner’s response, “God no, I wanna play ball!” Tanner pushes around 8 year old Lupis, until some older bullies harass Lupus. Tanner steps in and takes a beating to defend him, and even though Lupus is grateful, Tanner still knocks Lupus telling him not take any guff and stand up for himself.

Another one of the great performances is Jakie Earl Haley as Kelly, the punk kid who smokes and rides his mope-head. He also turns out to be the star athlete of the team, but what’s great is how his transition into working with the team is something he’s not comfortable with. It’s very hard for him. There’s a sad moment where after a win, he asks around the other kids if they want to hang out with him and his own teammates ignore him, because they’re a little afraid and don’t understand him. It’s made even worse when Buttermaker forces him to make all the catches to ensure the team will win, which turns him into an outcast among the team who think he’s trying to get in the way of their game.

The story is so tight that it manages to capture the struggle and difficulty of every kid on the team. Two of them are a couple of Hispanic kids who don’t speak English, and really have nobody except themselves to hang in there. But while their is a lot of sadness and frustration among the team, there are absolute hilarious moments throughout the film. One of the most hilarious gags is the pan showing the opposing team being sponsored by Pizza Hut on their uniforms, and then we pan to the Bears, whose sponsor is Chico’s Bail Bonds. There was also another line by Ahmad that was brilliant when he describes how tough Kelly is: “That kid’s a loan shark! I borrowed a nickel from him once, and if I didn’t pay him a dime by the end of the week he threatened to break my arm!” There’s also a fantastic performance by Tatum O’ Neil who plays Amanda, the 11 year old pitcher of the team, who constantly fights with Buttermaker, when he nudges at her like an overbearing father. There’s even a telling moment when Amanda even tells him off, “Who do you think you are?!” and Buttermaker tells her, “I’m you’re coach!” Another powerful sequence came at the championship game, where the opposing teams coach gives his kids a pep talk, “You kids are the best team I ever coached”, and then during the game rips them to shreds on the field throwing in everything from verbal to physical abuse.

I imagine this film started the genre of the underdog little league team movie. It’s no surprise what I expected by the end of the film the Bears would lose the championship. But really, that’s the whole point of the movie. It was never about winning. The real win was the personal transformation among the kids, as well as Buttermaker. The end of the championship game is brilliant with the opposing player holding the large trophy and in a condescending way tells the Bears, “It was a good game, sorry for all the fighting”, to which we get Tanners perfect rebuttal, “Hey Yankees, you can take that trophy and shove it up your ass!” You wouldn’t think to expect any of this from a little league comedy, but it’s not just the humor that sells you on these kids. There are some incredibly powerful, moving sequences in this film, moments of tragedy and sadness, and there are also scenes that are just heart tugging and beautiful. And most importantly, this all happens because the players are treated as real kids with real problems. They endure all the suffering ever kid endures at that age when growing up, entering puberty, and learning early on what teamwork really means, and what it means to become a man (for both the kids and Buttermaker). Parents may be turned off by the kids bullying each other and the harsh language, but this really is a film all kids need to see, because it speaks directly to them. It’s rare these days to encounter a film that talks to kids seriously and treats them as equals, especially a film about kids struggling with their parents expectations that are forced on them. Kids struggle through all of that and the harsh bullying to find and understand who they are inside. There’s kids brutalizing each other, calling one another faggots, niggers, assholes. Kids smoke, drink alcohol, and are beaten. And yet it is one of the most honest and direct Family films you will ever see. Yes, this is a Family film. It deals with the realities all kids face. They need to see this movie as much as their parents.

The script was written by Bill Lancaster, who also wrote the script to one of the greatest 80’s horror films, John Carpenter’s “The Thing”. He wrote very few scripts in his career, but they are two of the most awesome contributions to cinema anywhere. The Bad News Bears is available on Netflix Instant, so no excuses! Go check it out!

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New! Film Reviews and Hollywood Leftovers Pages

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Two new pages have been added to the website!  Now if you look at the Header, you can check out my Archive of Film Reviews, and I have another new page called Hollywood Leftovers!, where you can visit posts I’ve written about Classic movie stars, and see my past tours of Hollywood!

REVIEW: The Caine Mutiny (1954) Dir. Edward Dymytrk

TheCaineMutinyI can finally check off The Caine Mutiny on my list of films I needed to see.  But to tell you the truth this won’t be the only time I watch this incredible, brilliant film.  For a film like this to be made in 1954, there are themes here I would have never expected of a movie made in this time period.  The title implies the event of the mutiny in the film, but the real mutiny is much deeper, which is the abandonment and destruction of one man during a crisis.  This is actually a film about a man who becomes mentally ill, and the misunderstanding and judgement placed on him as a result of his actions.  The people around him only see him for the diagnosis and not the actual man that led him up to this moment.  What’s brilliant about it is that up until the final moments of the film, we’re actually on the crews side.  Captain Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) suffers a breakdown that puts crew in serious jeopardy during a typhoon.  But what matters is the build up to that moment as the navel crew comes to their own conclusions about what is happening to the captain, which is the primary influencing factor when the mutiny takes place and he’s relieved of command.  But when we get to Navy Lawyer Lt. Greenwald’s (Jose Ferrer) final telling off of the crew at the end, after in court he just destroyed the 14 year career of a respected navel captain, it’s clear that Queeg was really a victim of his own personal pain.  Nobody could see it except Greenwald, who was forced through circumstances to destroy this great mans reputation.

I have to say, I was misled in siding with the crew during Queeg’s building insanity, but all the while I kept thinking there was something wrong with the crews reaction to what was happening.  Our entry point into the film is through young Ensign Willie Keith (Robert Francis) after just graduating from the Navel Academy.  He’s also a mama’s boy, a little stuck between mom and his girlfriend, and whose really the most important woman in his life.  But Willie is assigned to The Caine, which as far as battleships go is a rust bucket.  The crew is sloppy and undisciplined.  The first commander, Captain Blakely, struggles to keep the ship in order.  Willie doesn’t care for Blakely much because of all the disorder on the ship, and is relieved when Blakely is replaced by the much more strict and enforcer of discipline, Captain Queeg.  But while Queeg puts in a good effort to clean up the men and turn the ship around, his enforcing of discipline goes to far.  Queeg covers up for a training exercise gone wrong, makes the ship run away in combat, and then more disturbing things happen when he wakes up the core officers at one in the morning complaining about a quart of missing frozen strawberries from dinner, and more.  Ensign Keith and Lt. Keefer (Fred MacMurray) try convincing First Officer Maryk (Van Johnson) that the Captain is suffering from some Paranoid mental disorder and that he needs to do something to relieve him of command.  Maryk gets caught up in the confusion, and when Queeg puts the ship in danger during the typhoon, Maryk feels he has no choice but to mutiny with the crew and relieve Queeg of command.

On the surface all of the decisions of the crew make sense, and we sympathize with them for the majority of the movie.  When I was watching everything happening, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something else going on.  At first I thought Queeg might have been putting an act on the crew, playing the part of a ruthless tyrant to help turn around a ship that was considered a joke to the rest of the navy.  But as the film went on, I could see this wasn’t an act at all and that there was something going on with him.  I was actually deceived by the plot as well, because quite honestly I never expected a film from 1954 to actually take mental illness in a human being seriously.  During the court room scene, the prosecutor (played by the marvelous E.G. Marshall) makes a point in his defense that Queeg did in fact turn a broken ship and crew around and bring it up to military standard.  The whole point of the prosecutions case is that the crew failed to see Queeg as a man.  The crew gave him a mental illness diagnosis when they had no experience with psychiatry at all, except what they picked out of a book.  When Maryk is on trial for leading the mutiny and is put on the stand, the prosecutor hammered him  with questions like, “Do you know what a schizophrenic is? A manic/depressive?  A paranoid delusional?”, all of which the answer was no.  When you watch the prosecutor go after Maryk, it seems at first that he’s being too hard on him when we as an audience were actually there and sympathized with Maryk when he struggled trying to make the right choice, and was pressured into his decision to lead the mutiny.  But no one on the crew really allowed themselves to get to know the captain, or attempt to be friends with him when he was being such a taskmaster.

TheCaineMutiny2Humphrey Bogart’s performance as Queeg is phenomenal.  For someone who appears to be an antagonistic character, I sympathized with him deeply.  There was a moment where after his bad call in the training mission, he makes an attempt to apologize to his officers. He can’t get himself to actually say it, but in his own way tries to get them to understand him and tell them the pressure he’s under (and not just pressure from command).  In his eyes you can see how bad Queeg feels about what happened.  What you also see is the distance and the deep loneliness he feels.  This is a man who has suffered something harsh in his life.  Something happened to him which the film never explains.  We never know anything about his backstory until the courtroom scene, and we only hear about his accommodations and the respect the Navy held for him in his 14 years of service at the very end.  This is also the reason we see the story from the perspective of the younger officer, who doesn’t have the experience in life or the knowledge to know what it means to be an esteemed Navel officer.  The first officer should have actually known better, as well as Lt. Keefer.  But both he and Maryk make the mistake of listening to Keefer, and it’s Keefer’s own arrogance and self righteousness that blinds the two officers from what they can’t see about Queeg’s behavior.  Their own personal intuition is blocked by the self righteousness of one man.  Lt. Keith even admitted in court that he liked Captain Queeg at first when he met him, because he enforced much needed discipline on the ship.  But he was convinced by Keefer to turn against Queeg.

When Maryk is on trial for his actions and Lt. Greenwald (Ferrer) decides to defend him, he realizes during the trial what the crew really had done.  Knowing Queeg’s incredible reputation, he is forced by the system to destroy this great mans career.  During the crews celebration of the victory of the trial, Greenwald comes in and shuts them all down, telling them what they had just done.  The ending of the film makes a powerful and brilliant statement.  It’s not only a statement about judging a person because of mental illness, but it also tells us what happens when we fail to follow our own intuition because of fear and misunderstanding.  When we feel we can’t make our own decisions, we allow other people to make them for us, which can lead to disastrous consequences.  In this case, it was Ensign Keith and First Officer Maryk who stopped listening to themselves, and started listening to Keefer instead, which influenced their decision to relieve Queeg.  And then in the courtroom when Keefer is on the stand, he turns against his crewmen, lying to save his own skin.  It’s not until the penultimate moment at the party after the trial, the crew realizes what they did and they finally see Keefer for who he really is.

For some of you reading this review, you might be wondering exactly what kind of film The Caine Mutiny is.  From the title alone, you would expect its a serious drama.  Things do get serious in the story, but if you’d really like to know…the film is actually very funny.  The beginning scenes introducing Ensign Willie Keith are hilarious and wonderful.  Many of the crew members are a colorful bunch of characters, and they are a lot of fun.  There’s a great scene in the beginning when Keefer is giving Keith and another ensign a tour of the rust bucket ship they’re assigned to, and Keefer says: “Well that’s the tour.  Any Questions?” Ensign:”Just one.  When do we surrender?”
It’s hilarious moments such as this that invite us into the world of the film and its crew.  We like them all right away.  It also helps that screenwriter Stanley Roberts had both the Abbot and Costello comedy, Who Done It?  as well as Death of a Salesman to his resume, showing how he could create the perfect balance of humor and drama, especially when the film needs to get serious.

“The Caine Mutiny” is a terrific film as well as an important one, which is just as relevant today as it was almost 60 years ago.

(Minor Spoilers) A second look at Side Effects (2013) Dir. Steven Soderbergh

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“In the U.K. you’re given psychiatric medication because your sick.  Here in the U.S., the attitude is, ‘you’re getting better.” – Dr. Jonathan Banks (played by Jude Law)

I saw Side Effects a second time last night (You can check out my first Spoiler Review Here).  It’s a terrific movie, with some especially powerful commentary on psychiatric medication, the people who prescribe it, and the industry as a whole.  Dr. Banks (Jude Law) comments about the idea of psychiatric meds helping people “get better” is a theme at the center of the film.  On the one end, the idea of getting better reflects much of the propaganda surrounding the need to put more people on medication without actually addressing the deeper psychological problems of the individual receiving treatment.  The fascinating aspect of this film is how things change from the moment Dr. Banks believes he is using medication to treat Emily (Rooney Mara), to the end where the medication is used for the purpose of complete control over a sane person.  That’s not to say Emily didn’t get what was coming to her at the end of the film.  But the ending is telling, putting all characters involved into a very gray area.

There moments, such as in Dr. Banks court room testimony where he talks about medication used to suppress the conscious mind, like say, a person who is depressed, and the anti depressant that builds up serotonin levels in your mind to block the part of your brain telling you it’s depressed.  It’s not that the drug makes you a better person.  The drug instead is suppressing the problem, like for instance taking your problems and locking them away in a kind of pandora’s box. People are labeled and judged by doctors as depressed, schizophrenic, bipolar, schizo-affective, etc.  Those people being labeled are in fact more in tune with other, more powerful aspects parts of their psyche, but the rest of society judges them to keep them down and under control.  It’s easy to be trapped with that label your whole life when the real situation is the patient may simply be a person on a search to open up who they are.

The introduction scene to Dr. Banks reveals some awareness and understanding of this at first, but he labels it as the aspects of a different culture.  In his introductory scene, the police bring to him a manic Haitian man who rambles on about seeing ghosts.  Dr. Banks understands his language and translates for the officers that he’s stricken with grief and that for the Haitian man’s culture, to see visions of dead relatives after they’ve died it’s perfectly normal, where as our culture would see it as something unusual.  Of course, what’s unsaid is what if the man was a white American who went on about seeing ghosts.  He would be labeled as schizophrenic and put on meds.  But Dr. Banks talks about a difference in culture where the Haitian is “excused” and allowed to see these visions because he is considered in some way “different” than us because of his background.  But with American culture, those feelings and spiritual intuition are going to be blocked or suppressed because this country is more inclined to label and judge what we don’t understand.  Stick on a diagnosis, tell this person to take these pills every night, and you are reintegrated into the rest of society.

There was a story I remember that came from Joseph Campbell where he talked about the journey of a schizophrenic, and in certain cultures, the man or woman who would be considered schizophrenic is someone who has fallen off the edge, and the question is “can he/she be pulled back”?  That person has drowned in their own subconscious.  There are sacred rituals the person is put through.  There were some cultures where they would literally drill a hole in the patients skull as a way to release dark spirits (Trust me, they didn’t have an anesthetic for that).  But the thing about being mentally ill is that it’s not just a physical illness, but that person is drowning in their own pain in need of a life preserver.  Medication can be that life preserver, but the truth is your still going to be stuck in the water until you see a ship come by.  But that ship may be a religion, or a kind of belief system, and depending whether your headed for any sort of land, the problems remain and you could be trapped over that water for a very long time.

In Side Effects, Emily winds up becoming a prisoner of her own pain.  Her pain is transferred through others by her manipulation.  By the end of the film she is described as somebody who would be technically “sane”.  But her manipulating is forced back on her 10 fold, and she is absorbed by the psychiatric system (trapped in a mental institution).  Medication can block your signals and your own intuition, where you can never tell just when or what you’re supposed to be feeling, except that you’re just there.  Emily’s final words to the doctor at the end sum it up, as the doctor asks, “How are you doing today, Emily?”, and she says, under several tranquilizers and anti psychotics, “Better.  Much Better.”    Dr. Banks may be seen as a hero by the end of the film in giving Emily what she deserves.  But the doctor goes to a dark place by the end, starting as somebody helping people, to someone getting revenge, and using the psychiatric system to be just as controlling and manipulative to put Emily in her place and give her what he thinks she deserves.

If you have not seen Side Effects yet, I really highly recommend you check it out.  It’s really one of the most thought provoking films on psychiatric medicine, talking about not only the drug industry, but the relationships between doctors and patients, the use of drugs for control and manipulation, and so much more.  In my first review, I even saw the film as a kind of satire, where most people get angry when a person is labeled as mentally ill when they commit a murder.  People like to hold onto the belief that the person was totally sane the whole time as if it was part of their master plan to get away with it.  So in this film Soderbergh gives the audience exactly what they want to see!  And the funny thing was, at both screenings I saw, there was no laughing.  There was no reaction when Dr. Banks had Emily incarcerated in a mental institution.  All the while the film plays like a fun Hitchcock thriller.  Again, I highly recommend to all that you check out this terrific film.  It’s the first great film of 2013.

CINECON 48 Reviews (2012)

Here are all my review for Cinecon 48 all in one place. Cinecon is a classic film festival held every year at the Egyptain Theater in Hollywood on Labor Day weekend.

DAY ONE:

Tonight was the premiere of Cinecon 48, which I will try to attend every day through Labor Day.  And tonight was off to a great start.  The first feature was the Andrews Sisters comedy “Always a Bridesmaid”, which was very enjoyable. I’ve seen the Andrews Sisters as supporting players in most features, and this film isn’t much different, considering the main lovers the film focuses on.  But this film at least the Sisters are the headline stars.  I enjoyed them as well in the Abbott and Costello feature “Buck Privates”.  Here the sisters run a kind of matchmaking agency which they broadcast through the radio.  Unlike some of the Laurel and Hardy features, where the boys wind up playing second banana to the bland lovestruck heroes, the lovers in the film are at least tolerable and have their moments.  My only real complaint with this film is that while Patty Andrews is undeniably the youngest and most attractive of the trio, and the most razor sharp wit, she gets a lot more lines and attention than her two other sisters, Maxine and Laverne Andrews, who are good looking but aren’t quite as attractive as Patty.  Which is a shame because I would have liked to have seen them get the spotlight a little more and be developed as characters as well.  Oh well, the bias of Hollywood I suppose.  Oh, and my other complaint is the obnoxious “Jivin Jacks and Jills”, a group of dancing teenage brats who boast about their youth and whine about why the old folks can’t seem to get with it.  Lame brats need to get run over by a steamroller!  But the real star of this film is Billy Gilbert, who steals practically every scene he’s in as a buffoonish restaurant owner.  Gilbert has always been hilarious in his supporting roles in the Laurel and Hardy films (In the Music Box he’s especially great).  Animation fans will also note him as the voice of Sneezy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  He’s just a brilliant comic actor, who practically explodes on every emotion (with hilarious effect I might add).  Charles Butterworth is also great as Col. who invented a formula for rubber and can’t seem to stop boasting to everyone about it.  Its definitely a sign of the times, but the film’s a good romp with a few great musical numbers by The Andrews Sisters.

My favorite film of the night however was “Drums of Jeopardy”, a 1923 silent feature, and a kind of adventure/drama.  The story by todays standards is pretty typical mystery plot and has a few predictable moments.  But the reason I loved this film was for its level of sophistication in the development of cinema.  For a silent film, and as my friend Jim Harwood pointed out, the performances were surprisingly restrained.  Most silents of that era would have actors making broad over the top gestures, having to telegraph practically every emotion.  Not this film.  Here you watch the man and the woman having a normal conversation, and even though there’s no dialogue, you can still feel the chemistry between them in the subtle movements they make.  The story structure of the film was also interesting to note, as the male protagonist we’ve been following gets captured halfway through the film, and the focus switches to the woman for the second half as she searches for him, especially after he becomes suspect for murder.  This film also features the great Wallace Beery (as the villain of course).  There was also a butler character (David Torrence) who was used as great comic relief during the films more tense moments.  But the other thing I admired was the lush, beautiful cinematography, costumes, staging, and production design.  This was coming from a smaller production company as well, but whatever resources they used they got great milage out of, because the film is just a visual treat.  Its got the adventure and mystery aspect, and from what I was told it borrowed some from the serials of the time (from a 21st century viewpoint, it was a little Indiana Jonsish in places as part of the plot involved a supernatural set of drumming figures).  The story is one we’ve pretty much seen before, but as a peek into the transition of cinema in the silent era, you could tell this film was trying to take its audience more seriously, because audiences were indeed becoming more sophisticated.  This film was remade in 1931, but I doubt the ’23 version is available anywhere else.  Which is all the more reason to attend Cinecon, and see the unknown jewels of the silver screen.  I will be writing more about the films I see at Cinecon through the weekend.  Cinecon runs through Labor Day Monday.  Tickets are $30 for the day.  If you have the time, come check it out!

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DAY 2:

I saw more great film gems at Day 2 of Cinecon.  I had to work in the morning and early afternoon to get a project done, and I didn’t arrive until after 4:15pm.  I drove to Hollywood and suddenly remembered I left my day pass at home.  So I had to drive all the way back to Van Nuys again to get it.  Thankfully, it wasn’t too far, but the annoying part was I missed the first half of the one film I wanted to see which was “Gentle Julia”.

But after seeing the second half of the film, I felt it worth mentioning because I got to see the talents of major child actor of the time, Jane Withers playing the niece of the main character Julia.  What I didn’t expect was that most of the films story surrounded the young girls character, and she was the top billing in the end credits.  I’m guessing the script was revised to center more on the girl considering she was so popular at the time.  In a funny way she made me think of a short, plump version of Judy Garland.  It was her voice more than anything  that made me think of that.  But she would get into some interesting shenanigans.  As I came in, there was a scene where she was unleashing lizards and bees on a formal outdoor party, creating chaos.  I didn’t see why, but it was amusing.  She was cute of course.  There’s some scenes here we’ve seen aped in other films before, such as the climax, where the whole town for some reason bands together in a chaotic chase to stop a couple from getting married, because the suave fiance is…well…suave…and only interested in her money.  Although the male protagonist we supposedly want her to marry practically threatens to beat her if she doesn’t marry him.  Real nice.  Of course, I saw the film out of context so I didn’t really know how much he was kidding or what kind of character he was, because 90% of the movie was centered around the girl.  But there were some good performances in there, and I’ll have to check it out on Netflix to watch the first half.

Second was the silent feature “Sensation Seekers”.  This film started out interestingly enough, but dragged in the middle, with a somewhat exciting action climax over the ocean.  The plot centered around a romantic relationship between a young minister and woman, who is unconventional and a bit of a bad girl.  But of course, surprise surprise the film takes the moral high ground with the priest always moralizing her behavior, probably because he could never allow himself to be as open with himself as she is.  Thankfully, it doesn’t get to preachy, and the story show some interesting moments including a police raid during prohibition at a nightclub.  But to be honest, near the end I started falling asleep, and there wasn’t much more going on to really keep my interest.  However, one noteworthy thing about this was that it was directed by a woman, Lois Weber, one of the few major women directors during the silent era.  In talking with a friend afterwards, the moral stance in this film is generally a common theme in all her films.  But she was a woman who had a powerful influence on film at a time the business was strongly dominated by men.  The film itself wasn’t great, but it was worthwhile to see her efforts during that time.  

The next feature was “Diamond Jim”, starring Edward Arnold as James Buchanan Brady, based on the real life Jim Brady who was an American Business man with ties to the Railroad industry.  Overall, it was a terrific film with great performances from several outstanding character actors, such as Caesar Romero, Tully Marshall, William Demarest and Jean Arthur.  The screenplay was by Preston Sturges.  This was my first real exposure to the great talents of Edward Arnold, who usually played in supporting roles in other films.  But he creates a seriously flawed persona out of Brady, who has a serious eating disorder, and has conflicted feelings for the two women in his life.  The film is a bit flimsy as a biography, but there’s also a disclaimer in the opening not to take it too seriously…but the best part of the film is that it does play up a lot of laughs as several of the people Brady meets in his life are larger than life characters themselves.  It’s the Hollywood touch of course, but its entertaining nonetheless.  But while the film carries a light tone for the most part, there is a lot of heavy emotional struggle going on in Brady, which leads to the seriousness of his eating condition, the financial struggles of going broke, and an accident that changes the course of his life…leading to the films dramatic emotional conclusion…and it is powerful.  “Diamond Jim” was by far the best film I saw today, which balanced the humor and the drama with a strong emotional undercurrent.  I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to check out a great classic.

Last film I saw was the silent feature film “Blonde or Brunette”.  This is one of those films where the humor is drawn out from an overcomplicated situation.  The star of the film was Adolphe Menjou, my first exposure to him, and he is a terrific comic actor.  He plays it straight for the most part but somehow finds himself involved in the crazy plot going on around him.  In the film, his character gets disgusted with Paris flappers and heads into the country where he meets and falls in love with a much younger girl (the blonde, Greta Nissen), but its the girls grandmother who rejoices in playing matchmaker and hopes the couple will fall in love.  And they do.  Part of the charm is in the fact that the blonde girl is so young and sheltered in life, making her quite shy and inexperienced in the ways of the outside world.  She meets Adolphe’s friend (Arlette Marchal, the Brunette), who is in love with Adolphe but is also very much a manipulator.  In a funny scene, right after Adolphe is married to Greta, he’s called away to Morocco on business for a month, and has to put his honeymoon with Greta on hold.  Arlette insists she’ll take care of Greta while he’s away.  But once he returns she’s influenced Greta to take up smoking, wear short skirts, and become a completely different person!  Of course, now she’s not the girl he fell in love with, so what’s he going to do?
Well, here’s where I felt the film started running into problems.  It surprised me a little that Adolphe couldn’t see how much Arlette was manipulating the situations, as this somewhat intelligent man doesn’t seem to notice what she’s done to his wife and how she convinces Adolphe to get a divorce and marry her instead.  Of course, once he marries her, she’s pretty much a controlling bitch, and Adolphe starts to long for Greta once more.  Part of the plot involves Greta not wanting to break the news to her grandmother that she’s gotten a divorce, fearing it will break her heart.  Arlette convinces her to write to her grandmother over a 6 month period to make it sound like her and Adolphe are becoming hostile towards each other and are growing apart.  When Grandma reads these letters, she insists that Greta and Adolphe come stay with her at her luxury estate to work out their differences.  But supposidly she doesn’t know that Greta and Adolphe are divorced.  So then Greta, Arlette, and Adolphe hatch a plan to trick the grandmother into thinking him and Greta are still married.  This is where I started to have a problem, because it was one thing to have Arlette be the manipulator, but when Adolphe and Greta turned into manipulators as well with how they tried to trick the grandmother, they started to lose my sympathy.  The second half of the film is built around this comic premise, but I wasn’t really laughing…and for the most part…the audience wasn’t really either.  Which was frustrating because the first half of the film is hilariously funny in places.  At the end of the comic chaos, we learn that the grandmother already knew the two were divorced because she hired a private detective to investigate them, and her reasoning for bringing them to her house was to find out if the two of them were still in love despite the divorce.  Fair enough I suppose.  But I think instead we should have known ahead of time that the grandmother knew they were divorced, and that with the audiences knowledge of this, it might have gotten us to laugh more at how foolish the three of them have become.  Because they are fools.  That’s clearly the point, but the problem is there’s no one around to comment on the fact that all three main characters were becoming manipulators.  But overall, there were some great moments of comedy, and I think if it wasn’t for the fact that I lost sympathy for the main character half way through, this could have been a terrific film.

I can’t wait for tomorrow where I’ll be viewing more Cinecon all day long.  In the morning there’s the Harold Lloyd feature “Hot Water”, and the classic, brilliant Laurel and Hardy feature “Way out West”.  Tomorrow is going to be an awesome day!

DAY 3:

Day 3 of Cinecon was my first full day.  Well, almost full anyway, I missed the last feature because I got tired, and 1 or 2 films I started dozing off and didn’t pick up on enough of the film to really talk about it).  But it was a great day.  Today I met Samantha Eggar, who costarred as the lead female character in Cary Grant’s final feature “Walk, Don’t Run”.  She was wonderful.  It was kind of amusing, because she seemed to star in a lot of films that were swan songs for famous actors, including Rex Harrison in Dr. Doolittle.  But I had some exposure to her from television as she played Captain Picards sister in law in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Family”, one of my favorite TNG episodes.  I was proud to tell her that, and she had a terrific time as well working with Patrick Stewart.  
But on with the show though.  Today there were quite a few silent films, at least one drama, “The Goose Woman”, which looked fascinating, but unfortunately was one of the films I started dozing off in.  It wasn’t because the film was boring, far from it, but we saw it after lunch and my caffeine buzz was wearing off at that point.  I’ll have to catch it another time and talk about it because it did have some extraordinary performances.  But I looked forward today because there were some GREAT comedies that were shown.  
The first feature was the Harold Lloyd comedy, “Hot Water”.  Terrific film.  Harold Lloyd is one of the few comic actors of the silent era that can be listed along the top greats including Keaton and Chaplin.  His films have great style and structure, and Lloyd is most definitely a comedy genius.  A couple of great sequences had Lloyd trying to make his way home covered in groceries, and add to that a live prized turkey he wins by chance (not a dummy turkey, it’s real and alive) that crawls all over him as he walks through traffic and onto a trolley.  But the film has a terrific build and climax as Lloyd thinks he’s killed his mother-in-law, who also happens to be prone to sleepwalking, and as this happens to her, he thinks she’s come back from the dead to come after him.  I have seen Lloyd in some great shorts, and personally I think its a little unfair to compare him to Keaton or Chaplin, because what made him great was that his character had its own persona as a kind of happy go lucky, gullible guy who always has trouble follow him.  This ones a classic.

Speaking of classics, the next film was the one I was most looking forward to, the Laurel and Hardy comedy feature, “Way Out West”.  I had seen this film for the first time about a year ago, but this is one of the duo’s best.  And to top it all off, it casts one of my favorite comic actors, James Finlyason as the villain.  I think Laurel and Hardy features worked so much better when the villains were so over the top, as it was with their greatest nemesis Barnaby from March of the Wooden Soldiers (played by Henry Brandon).  But Finny is great in this.  The boys find themselves in the old west with a deed to a gold mine they’re supposed to deliver to a young woman, whose grandfather owned the mine and now she’s inherited it after his death.  Of course, Finny and his wife find out about the mine and plot to steal the deed.  The only thing this film could have used was a little more development on the granddaughter, who appears when she’s needed, but isn’t really given much to do in the story.  But it’s a simple setup for the boys to get themselves into deeper trouble, and the gags are abound in this great comedy.  Looking at many of these films over the past few days, the one thing I love is that there aren’t any morals or messages plugged in these comedies, forcing the main characters to have to “learn something” from their experiences.  This is pure entertainment.  And watching characters get into situations and how we see them get out of them (or at least try to get out of them) says everything we need to know about them…which is all the truth we really need.  A film can still be about something without having to say a word regarding what its about.  This is one of my favorite films, and I was glad to finally see it on a large screen.  

The next feature was “Walk, Don’t Run”.  This was the first widescreen and color feature that was shown.  It was also Cary Grants last film.  Despite some great performances, I have to say I was disappointed in the story.  The film revolves around Grant, a knighted englishman in Tokyo during the summer Olympics trying to find a place to stay when every hotel is booked solid.  At the British Embassy he sees an ad for an English woman looking for a roommate at her apartment in Tokyo (played by Samantha Eggar).  Of course, the woman forgot to specify she was looking for a woman roommate, but of course that doesn’t stop Grant from imposing on her anyway (the heel!).  And of course a third male roommate shows up who is a US Olympic contender.  While the setup leads to a majority of the comic moments and mishaps during the second act as Eggar puts up with her roommates, the story drags most of the time.  The story doesn’t really give us any idea where its going, and I kept wondering what having the film set in Tokyo and the Olympics really had to do with this storyline about three roommates getting along.  The Olympics eventually comes into the story by the third act, which ties everything together, but getting there is a chore to sit through.  Watching the roommates try to get along has some amusing moments, but there’s no tension or anything really holding this together (For instance, Cary’s wife in England knows he’s staying with a strange woman in Tokyo, and she’s fine with it.  Eggar is nervous when she has to introduce her roommates to her visiting friend.  But she’s pretty much honest about whats going on.)  There’s a lot of comic stuff going on, but nothing really “happens” to the characters, at least until the third act, and by then it feels a little late.  But there are a couple of really cool things about this film…one of them being an appearance from George Takei playing a police captain (this film was a year before he started on Star Trek).  And it’s a fairly important part too, not just a quick scene.  The film is well shot, with some good performances, and a few good gags.  It’s just I wish there was more holding the story together.

After dinner, the next feature was the hilarious Wheeler and Woolsey comedy, Hips Hips Hooray, also costarring the gorgeous and funny Thelma Todd!  I had seen this film a little over a year ago at my friend Stan’s house, but it’s a terrific pre code RKO comedy, as there’s plenty of scenes with half dressed women (some practically nude), and the two main characters are just complete shysters.  There’s also some memorable songs, such as the great “Keep on Doi’n what you’re Do’in”.  This is a hilarious, risque, and sexy.  It’s great classic film I recommend anyone to check out.  Here’s a clip below of the films signature song and dance number:
       
Last film for the night was a REAL TREAT.  John Ford’s 1927 silent feature was lost until it was found in 2010 and preserved by New Zealand film laboratories. It’s probably considered the least John Fordian of all his films.  But it is a great comedy about a boarding house full of vaudeville actors, and centers around one actor, who is terrible actor, but is asked to play Hamlet in London because of his family’s respected name in the theatrical industry.  He gets training from an old acting master at the boarding house, but once his performance becomes a success and he achieves fame, the man he once was becomes corrupted.  He becomes completely self absorbed and lacks in all humility for those who helped him achieve his success in the first place.  The great (and tragic) thing about the ending is that the man doesn’t change despite visiting the boarding house after his success and after his acting mentor gives him cutting words about the truth of what he’s become.  I suppose I found something truthful in this, having thought of some people I went to Cal Arts with who achieved some success in the film industry (after only working on one film), and watching a person became self absorbed and unfriendly…especially for some who could be really condescending to their fans.  The man in “Upstream” is no exception as he rises to fame based on one production, only to believe his new position came from himself without the help of others.  And as one of my favorite characters on Six Feet Under put it…”And so it all begins.  With the first success, corruption.”  I think this film says it perfectly.  
Still from John Ford’s previously lost film, “Upstream”

More great films coming tomorrow as Cinecon continues through to Monday.  Something fun I did during the dinner hour, I found on Hollywood Blvd the Snow White Bar/Cafe (yes, Disney’s Snow White, but unofficial!) with paintings of all the characters and scenes decorated around the restaurant.  It was really great.  The restaurant apparently opened in 1946, and the artwork was done by a Disney artist at the time who did it for the owner as a favor (or something like that).  But despite having the Disney owned El Capitan theater right down the street, Disney apparently allowed them to continue displaying the characters because it was done by a former Disney artist who worked on the original film…so I guess someone at the studio considers it a piece of history, and there were no issues regarding licensing of the characters.  And they make a pretty good tuna sandwich too!  Definitely check it out if you’re ever in the Hollywood area.

DAY 4:

I got to the show a little later in the morning today, so I missed the first feature. But I saw at least one film today that I absolutely fell in love with, which I’ll get to momentarily. But not only did I have a great day, I met a classic star, and I made friends with a very prominent film historian! Lets get on with the show, shall we?
First thing I saw when I arrived was a series of shorts from the Joe McDoakes series. There were some other shorts shown throughout Cinecon, which I should have mentioned more of. But Joe McDoakes was a great series, which starred George O’Hanlon and Phyllis Coates (who made an appearance after the screening with director Richard L. Bare (who was also there, and went on to direct 166 episodes of Green Acres for television!) The shorts were very funny, and had a lot of broad range in the kind of comedy they did. For instance, in one episode they showed, the couple was introduced to us not as their normal selves, but as hideously ugly and buck toothed. The wife decides to get facial surgery to make herself beautiful, as does the husband, but neither of them knows what the other has done. Later, the two of them meet coincidently at a bar and neither of them recognizes each other, and the husband and wife unknowingly start hitting on each other! The second short involved Joe trying to become a maestro piano player in less than three weeks, when his wife becomes obsessed with a virtuoso piano player next door, and comic hi jinx ensue. It was a great series of shorts, and I look forward to seeing more when I can. If you’re an animation lover or grew up watching classic Hanna Barbara like I did, its interesting to note that George O’Hanlon who played Joe was also the voice of George Jetson!
The first feature I saw was a silent film from 1914 called The Circus Man. It was an interesting film for sure, with some great use of lighting and cinematography. The story felt a little muddled and convoluted, which I had some difficulty trying to follow. At first we follow the main character who is being accused of murder, which is what I presumed the story was going to be about. But this gets resolved fairly soon, and the film seems like it makes a left turn as it starts following plot lines of the other characters in the film. It was interesting in how they tried to structure it in the film considering it was based on a novel, but it did start to get a little confusing for me after awhile. But there was some strong filmmaking in here, and it was a great opportunity to check out this rarely seen film.
The next film for me was the highlight of the whole day, a wonderful, funny, and emotional story called “Fearless Fagan”. Some of you may know I have an affinity for strong family films, because I feel a majority of family films (at least today) tend to talk down to their audience, especially to children. There was a sincerity to this friendship between Floyd Hilston and his circus lion that really became the beating heart of the whole film. The plot revolves around Hilston, a 21 year old clown and lion tamer at a circus who gets drafted into the army during WW2, but he doesn’t know what to do with his ever faithful lion companion from the circus while he’s away. He’s afraid to leave him with the circus’ other lion trainer, who is far more harsh and strict in training his lion performers. He also doesn’t want to sell him to a zoo, or give him away out of fear of the lions own unhappiness that might lead him to become hostile, which does become an important point in the film. He meets Janet Leigh’s character, a performer who sings for the army men. As you can see in the photo above, that’s not a stunt man, thats Carleton Carpenter who played Hilston, and he performed practically all his scenes live with his costar lion Fagan, and in many cases he was on the ground wrestle with the lion, and we also watch as the lion practically jumps all over him like a puppy dog. There were no special effects, and no CGI lions back then. Everything was real. Fagan the lion puts on an incredible performance, and there were a few serious moments where I teared up when I thought the film was about to go into Old Yeller territory! But it shows how much I cared about this relationship between this kid and his lion. I would put this up there with my top family films of all time. It’s an absolutely wonderful film you should not miss.

And wouldn’t you know it? Carleton Carpenter, who played Hilston, showed up at Cinecon! He shared stories with us about what it was like to work with a lion costar, as well as his career highlights from Broadway to dancing with Debbie Reynolds in his earliest features. I found him to be incredibly attractive in his younger years, and his performance in the film was both funny and emotional. He was very nice in person, and I was pleased to tell him that this film was now my introduction to his career, and told him how I felt about the importance of emotional, sincere family films that “Fearless Fagan” clearly displayed. It was a great experience.

Tomorrow is the last day of Cinecon, where I’ll be checking out a Randolph Scott feature, “Hello, Everybody” (remember Blazing Saddles, anyone? “Rannndoooollphhhh Scoooooottttt!”). There’s also going to be a Max Sennet centennial tribute, a Spencer Tracy pre code drama, and more. Looking forward to it!

DAY 5:

Today was the final day of Cinecon, and I’m saddened that its over so soon!  What an unbelievable and educational experience it was for me, as I was introduced to several huge stars I had never known (and even got to meet a few of them), discovered some incredible films from the golden age of cinema, and I even made some wonderful new friends.  I can’t begin to tell you what being at this festival has meant to me, and how incredibly entertaining and fun it was too.  I swear, if you are a student of film or a filmmaker of any kind, it’s seriously in your best interest to attend this festival next year for Cinecon 49.  You will be blown away.  
Todays batch of films were excellent.  The last two features at the end were decent, but I had some story and pacing issues with them.  But in the morning, and what we were treated to right after lunch…incredible!  Read on!
Randolphe Scott (left), Sally Blane (center), Kate Smith (right)
I arrived just in time for the first feature, which was a terrific film, called “Hello, Everybody!”, starring the amazing Kate Smith.  Because of her size, it might be surprising to some that she was such a huge star in the 1930’s (no pun intended).  But what an incredible voice!  And also the warmth of her persona was just beautiful.  She was 26 when she made this film in 1933 having become a sensation on the radio, and while this film had a plot, it was designed to exploit her popularity.  Some may know her from her most famous recording of “God Bless America”.  The film also starred Randolphe Scott (“RANDOLPHE SCOTT!!”…sorry, Blazing Saddles joke 🙂 ) The biggest surprise in the film was when she was singing on the radio, after she was done and the orchestra continued, she broke into a wild dance number that brought the house down in the theater.  The audience went apeshit!  It was terrific.  And while this was part of promoting her image, there was also a scene where she sang a special song to all the black orphans out there.  It might sound a little silly considering it was part of her image…but at that time especially to show a non descriminatory stance with black people in the 1930’s, it made me fall in love with her as person all the more.  She was incredible.  Highly recommended.

The next film was “Ladies Night at the Turkish Bath”, starring Jack Mulhall, and one of my all time favorite comic actors, James Finlayson (Finny for short).  I had seen this film a little over a year ago, but its still really god damn funny.  The premise is that to avoid being pinched in a police raid on a speakeasy, “Speed” (Mulhall), and Pa Slocum (Finny) duck into a Turkish Bath only to discover that its ladies’ night and their wives are there too!  (Of course their wives happen to be there 🙂  )  The set up takes time before the riotous second half at the bathhouse, which at the time this film was precode, so there were plenty of shots of ladies not wearing much of anything.  But this is a great film, and its loads of fun.  Finny’s performance here was a surprise, because it was much more subdued than most of his comic schtick we know from the Laurel and Hardy shorts and features (compare this to Way out West, which I reviewed two days ago, where Finny plays the over the top villain).  Finny gets to display his physical comedy antics somewhat in the bathhouse sequence, but it was an interesting change of pace for him, and yet he was still just as entertaining.

Hollywood comedy producer/legend Mack Sennett with his costar in “The Hollywood Kid”

After lunch, got treated to several comedy shorts from the Mack Sennett studio, some of which haven’t been theatrically shown in over 80 years, and many of which haven’t been available on video or DVD.  The shorts were all great, but the best one was a special surprise short that was screened first, called “The Hollywood Kid”, which was a comic look at how Mack ran his studio, with several cameo appearances from the stars of his films.  It was brilliant, as Mack even played himself as the studio head and was out in the open making fun of himself.  We saw several Keystone shorts, one of which was a surprise Chaplin short (I can’t remember the name of it).  All great stuff.

Next was the feature film “She wanted a Millionaire”, and early talkie starring Joan Bennett and Spencer Tracy.  It was a precode film, a mix of comedy and domestic drama, in which Joan Bennett forsakes newspaperman Spencer Tracy for a millionaire (James Kirkwood), and she feels that staying with him will help her give money to take care of her poor family.  But of course, the millionaire is a controlling whack job, who spies on her, completely paranoid and looking for any trace that she might try and leave him for someone else.  It’s admirable that in the moment she summons the courage to tell him she’s leaving him, she does so without having to cheat on him (by todays standards it probably would have been no big deal if she cheated on him, but back in that time they probably thought the audience would lose sympathy for her if she went behind his back).  But this act in turn leads to serious consequences as the millionaire looses himself and she has to struggle for her life.  The film had its moments and some good performances, especially from Tracy.  But Kirkwood who plays the millionaire, despite a good performance, he’s a little too one dimensional as an antagonist, and the filmmakers and Kirkwood give us plenty of reasons to hate him.  But its a little over done at times.  Granted again this is 1932 we’re talking about, where antagonists were often one-sided.  But even during that time I think some actors who played villains were able to sneak in a little sympathy.  Kirkwood tries to do that here, but were hit over the head one too many times with his degrading lines and despicable acts for us to actually have a moment to feel something for him.

The next feature was “Strawberry Roan”, probably the one feature at Cinecon I liked the least.  That doesn’t mean it was terrible.  It was my introduction to the first cowboy singer in films, Ken Maynard.  There were also some terrific stunt sequences, and early use of optical special effects that were surprisingly good for their time.  The story centers around Maynard who tells the story of how he attempts to tame a wild horse while rounding up rustlers along the way.  The problem though is that plot is incredibly muddled as more time is spent on promoting Maynard’s singing talents as opposed to focusing on the story.  The whole second act of the film is like this, as Maynard has the wild Roan captured in the first act, but in the second act we never see him develop any sort of relationship with the horse, until the third act when its already a little late for us to care.  Because in the beginning that’s what he tells us the story is going to be about, but its like they never get around to it until the very end of the film.  And as for Maynard’s singing talents…well…I don’t quite get his popularity.  He’s okay, but certainly not one of the greatest western singers I’ve ever heard.  One scene that convinced me of this was when he was in a Saloon, he plays an instrument and starts singing, and everyone in the saloon stops what they’re doing to listen to him sing.  His singing in that scene was not great, and I imagined today that some burly cowboy trying to play cards would tell him to shut up!  But Ken is the star of course, so naturally everyone has to pay attention.  So overall, the film had its moments, but it dragged aimlessly for most of the second act.

For our final feature at Cinecon, we got a mixed bag genre piece called “Love Under Fire”, starring Loretta Young and Don Ameche.  Jewel Robbery, foreign intrigue, undercover operatives, and Borrah Minevitch and his Gang of hermonica rascals come together in this screwball-romance-thriller set against the Spanish Civil War.  The mix of genre’s is interesting, but the situations the characters get into get pretty contrived after awhile, as for instance, Ameche who is a Scotland Yard detective looking for a criminal in Spain, discovers from his boss that the name of the criminal he’s after is the same woman he happens to meet and fall in love with on a train.  In ALL of Spain, she’s right there.  The mix of genres also gives the film a bit of a confused tone, as if its not really sure what it wants to be.  And while the harmonica rascals have their bit moments, the leader Borrah Minevitch is a little too hammy as a comic actor.  He has his schtick which I suppose pleased audiences at the time, but it hasn’t aged well, and the story general has to stop so he can go into his goofy antics.  Again, many films were like this where they wanted to display the talents of popular singing groups and talent of the time interspersed in the plot.  Sometimes it works okay, but Minevitch isn’t that funny and for the most part I could have done without him.  The one thing I will say about his harmonica group that I liked, was that the two featured stars of the group were a midget and a black person, and the black man was not in a subservient position, he was an equal member of the group.  And better yet, both men were featured as solo players.  So I have to give it to Borrah Minevitch for his tolerance and equality to others during that time.  The rest of the cast was very good though despite the convoluted storyline, which also featured John Carradine and Walter Catlett (animation fans will know him as the voice of J. Worthington Fox in Pinocchio), and he steals all his scenes in a great comic performance.  Ironically, Harold Huber who plays a spanish Lt. who is after the main couple, he loses his spanish accent after his first few scenes!  Oh well.  This movie also featured one of my favorite antagonist character actors, Sid Ruman, who was the opera house foil, Gottlieb, for the Marx Bros. in Night at the Opera.  He’s a great comic actor, and he’s also a lot of fun in this movie, as he rips into his Spanish Lt. for all of his screw ups.  Not the perfect film to end the festival on, but it had its moments of entertainment.

That’s it for my Cinecon coverage!  I look forward to next year, and now I have plenty of new stars and films to add to my classic film vocabulary.  I look forward to seeing plenty more, and for those of you who have been reading, I thank you for following my coverage!

I’ll be back to regular posts and continuing my other series of posts soon.