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The San Antonio Kid - 1944

The San Antonio Kid"The San Antonio Kid." Bill Elliott, Robert Blake, Alice Fleming, Linda Stirling, Earl Hodgins, Glenn Strange, Duncan Renaldo. 1944.

One of my recent columns concerned Red Ryder so, thought I would take a look at a movie about one of his adventures. The chosen flick? "The San Antonio Kid." To set the record straight - the 'kid' is anything but - it is veteran actor Duncan Renaldo.

The movie is action-filled and centers around a pretty decent plot about goings-on in the town of Maverick (named after Garner's unc) a quiet community - quiet, that is, until oil is discovered there. As the prelude tells us, that stuff is in demand, and quickly becoming valuable.

So, Glenn Strange, in a strange 'bad guy' role as Ace Hanlon, the nasty local saloon owner, goes around buying ranch after ranch in a 'get rich quick' rich quick' scheme that will make him rich-rich-rich. Not everyone is willing to sell so, he gets his gang to shoot the stubborn folks so he can take over their land, an 'oily' scheme almost as nasty as the Exxon spill.

Anyway, our hero to the rescue. He rides into town with sidekick Happy Jack (sounds like a brand of liquor). That is Earl Hudgins and, with the duo is li'l Bobby Blake. (Two men and a little boy riding the plains. That wouldn't work nowadays).

They visit Ben Taylor's ranch and, naturally, he has a pretty daughter. (Jack Kirk and Linda Stirling, respectively). Pop is popped off by the bad guys. Red Ryder offers to buy the property, but that ass, Ace, ups the ante.

Our hero looks, well, not too nice but, soon we see why he wants to buy the land. (They break into a chorus of, - "give me land, lots of land under starry skies above)." Well, they don't - R. R. (named after a railroad crossing) is all business. He ain't no singin' cowboy.

Besides, Ryder has work to do since Ace and company are really rough. They're shooting cattle, driving them off cliffs, and drowning them. All this is implied - nothing visual. All this ruthless stuff is for greed. And, the bb (bad boss) tells his goons, "if anyone gets in your way, shoot 'em off, burn 'em off."

The dialogue is ugly - what you see onscreen is not quite that bad. There is one scene that is uncomfortable for me. Happy Jack, bless his heart, likes to read newspapers. Alice Fleming as The Duchess, the ranch caretaker, likes to cut up the papers. As a retired reporter, that hit me in the bazoom.

Incidentally, Red has to do all the work since the town is 'sheriff-less'. So, there are prolonged gunfights and, a dandy free-for-all fight in the saloon during which Beav, with his trusty bow and arrow, knocks off an overhead lamp which lands on the head of one of the bad guys.

Now, re: the movie's title. Veteran actor Duncan Renaldo is 'the kid' - a rather old 'kid.' A mean bird (a real one, the kind with wings) knocks him off his horse and he falls off a cliff. The script calls for Ryder to 'ryd' by and, with the help of his horse and a lasso, rescue him.

He meets Ace and, for a thousand or so, agrees to knock off the Ryder. You are on your own after that. Does he or doesn't he? Duh! He goes to the ranch where Ann gives him the goo-goo eyes. He is smitten, she is smitten. Why? Ryder is tall, dark, handsome, sort-of charming; The 'Kid' is past his prime, but - you know - bedfellows. (Whoops, wrong phraseology for those old westerns).

Our sneaky hero raids the Ace office and finds a pile of deeds, using them to right the wrongs.

The movie ends. That's 'oil' there is, there ain't no more.

* * * *

Take a look at this info about Duncan Renaldo. Star stories don't get any more interesting. Depending on what you read he was born in Spain, Romania, or New Jersey. He was raised in Europe and, like my parents, he was an orphan. He arrived in the U. S. after working as a stoker on a Brazilian coal ship.

He had a variety of jobs before drifting over to Republic. Herbert Yates, the studio owner, appealed to President Roosevelt, to give him full citizenship.

Eventually, in movies and on teevee he portrayed The Cisco Kid. (He tried a cooking show, "The Crisco Kid" - didn't work). During the '53-'54 season he was severely injured in a rock fall, and was hospitalized thru nine episodes. The producers had him wearing masks, disguised as a ghost, and used other gimmicks enabling them to use doubles. He recorded his lines, and close-ups were shot from a hospital bed.

Most interesting is this quote from his bio: "We've taken all our fine western lore and splashed it with criminality and barbarism. The whole idea of these adult films is a fallacy. Nowhere, did they ever shoot five or six men before breakfast. That quick draw business, too, is a fake. Nobody can shoot accurately following a quick draw. Why bring kids up on this stupid craze? Nowadays, you frequently read where some kid has shot off his kneecap or wounded a friend trying to perfect a quick draw. A gun has become a plaything."

Well said - very well said-- although some of those situations were part of his shows.

Watch the movie: The San Antonio Kid —»


Romance Rides the Range - 1936

Romance Rides the Range"Romance Rides the Range." Fred Scott, Cliff Nazarro, Marion Shilling, Buzz Barton. 1936.

A nickname for the ole grade 'B' westerns was 'horse opera." "Romance Rides the Range" is more like a horse operetta. It is the somewhat unusual story about an opera star who owns a ranch - where he rides, fights, shoots, and 'cowboys'.

One of our entries - where I write about cowboy stars - concerned Fred Scott. His life fascinated me enough to check out one of his films - the romance-range offering.

How does the movie start? Under the credits you hear some well-known classical music selections. The picture opens after Scott, as Barry Glendon, finishes his last opera performance of the season, and heads for a 'cowboy' vacation, specifically a property he owns called the Bar B Ranch - ideal for a 'B' picture.

His Italian manager (You can tell he's Italian - every word ends with the letter 'a') urges him to stay and sing some more. He tries to lure him with a juicy contract. Glendon neatly replies, "you can take a buckaroo out of the west, but you can't take the west out of the buckaroo." A li'l cowboy philosophy.

All of that calls for a song about the open range. He sings as he rides his gorgeous all-white horse, White King who, by the way, is billed as - get this - 'The Human Horse." Sheesh! Unlike Trigger, he doesn't do any tricks. He gallops well. He won a recent 'gallup' poll.

Almost as soon as he arrives, he sees a mean cat beating up a young kid. To shorten it: Man beats kid -- Glendon beats man. You can't beat that scene.

Soon afterwards, sex rears its ugly head. That's crude. There ain't no sex, and Marion Shilling is miles from being ugly. She gets a lot of close-ups and, if you like 'pretty' they are rewarding.

Who she in the movie? She is Carroll Marland - a patsy who thinks she purchased the ranch. It's a con job, and such things are still going on these days.

But, of course the Barbie Doll and the Bar B Ranch are not a parcel. Gad, someone has to come to the rescue. Who better than t.d.h. - tall, dark, handsome Barry Glendon.

She sits at the piano, hits a note or two then asks her newfound friend, "do you sing?" (If she watched this movie, she'd know). He proves he does by singing a song written for the movie, "Only You" and, I gotta add, it is a very pretty piece. (So is Marion. That's crude). It was a tad weird to see that the backup band was a small cowboy group.

It's a lovely scene, but I have a hard time picturing 1930s-era kiddies sitting through that scene. I can picture Jimbo walking up the aisle peddling popcorn. Speaking of the piano, sidekick Cliff Nazzaro, as Shorty, does his thing in a too short scene. He hits the keys and sings double talk - something he was known for in those days.

After the singin' comes the shootin'. The bad guys are after the good guys (what's new?). The end result is, one bad guy wounded, no good guy casualties.

Glendon, of course, is the head good guy - the disgustedly handsome good guy. He has a Colgate smile. I was thinking of an opera star starting a sentence with 'I reckon'. Wreckin' life at the ranch gets complicated when the mean cats implicate our hero, accusing him of doing what they done did. They conned the pretty lady into thinking he was responsible for all the brouhaha. Her brother, advertised as being sick - also believes. They fight, the kid gets shot - the doc comes - the kid recuperates nicely, thank you.

She is sick of the whole thing and leaves the ranch, taking off in her '34 convertible. He, of course, chases after her, riding his famed horse - advertised, yet, as 'The Human Horse.' Lord, I reckon.

So, they get together. All is well. Do they do the natural thing - kiss?. No, podner. I reckon that would violate the code of the west. However, they do embrace - a very tight hug. We're waiting to see where that will lead - but - some killjoy wrote 'The End' on the screen.

Do I recommend "Romance On the Range"? Hell - I mean, heck - yes. It's an exciting hour with shootin' and fightin' to keep fans of all that happy. Add to that, the personality and talent of its star. Ten stars, I give it.

Watch the movie: Romance Rides the Range —»


In Old Cheyenne - 1941

In Old Cheyenne "In Old Cheyenne." Roy Rogers, George 'Gabby' Hayes, Joan Woodbury, J. Farrell MacDonald, Sally Payne. 1941.

I don't mean to sound like a pretentious know-it-all but, too many critics are super-critical, looking for goofs. I sometimes wonder how they enjoy what they're doing. A 'for instance'. Today, I'm looking at "In Old Cheyenne," with Roy Rogers. He portrays an easterner yet, when he hits Arizona he gets involved in gun play, square dancing, etc., and that bothered a couple of these - er - writers. It bothered them and they passed their 'bothers' on to us.

Me? I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, not giving a rodent's patootie that it seems strange that an easterner can do all that stuff. I didn't watch the movie for an analysis. I wanted to see what was on the screen - and I enjoyed what was on the screen.

Critics? Sheesh. Oh, did I mention I was a critic for a major newspaper for almost half-a-century? I looked for enjoyment. I wasn't into technical nit-picking.

"In Old Cheyenne," released six days before the Pearl Harbor attack, stars a very young looking Roy Rogers and, the reason I wanted to review this pic is that he portrays Steve Blane, a reporter for a New York City newspaper - the Empire, yet. He is being sent to Cheyenne - excuse me - old Cheyenne - to investigate some dastardly goings-on involving a bad guy named Arapahoe Brown.

That would be ole Gabby - except - he is really a good guy. Fellow by the name of Sam Drummond is the real good bad guy. We first meet reporter Rogers on a choo-choo, en-route to Arizona. The villain's gang holds up the train and the scene is not heavy. There is a fair amount of good corn in this flick.

Example: The gang goes from passenger to passenger, stealing what they can. A candy salesman comes up and one of the 'dastards' wants gum drops. He gets 'em but the sales guy makes him pay a dime.

Another passenger is really Della Casey - professional name: Dolores Casino. Real name: Joan Woodbury. She sports a Spanish accent (one critic complained of its 'un-authenticity'. I thought it was funny and cute). Anyway, I've always enjoyed that actress. She and Rogers talk family. He asks if her parents are separated. "No," she says, "they're all in one piece." You had to be there.

The passengers exit the train - stopped because the 'bad guys' blew up a section of track. Then, along comes Gabby with horse and wagon and drives the two to town. (Interjection: There is a scene where he twirls a gun and he is damned proficient).

There is plenty, but plenty, of gunplay and it is interspersed with music - some square dancing (the caller is the reporter), and there is a Spanish dance and - get this - the song was written by famed pop writer, Jule Styne. The song is called "Bonita" and the Espanol dancer is Miss Woodbury.

Back to the plot. Our eastern reporter friend hooks up with the editor of the local paper who philosophically explains, "even a big story ain't a good story if you don't get to write it." Duh!

If you're looking for tense - well reporter Roy almost gets hanged - until - sharpshooter Gabby shoots the rope in half. What a guy! And when he is not a-shootin' he carries a little black kitty cat in his shirt.

He winds up in the editor's abode where abides Squeak Brown, a dandy portrayal of an adorable nut-case by Sally Payne. She spots our handsome hero and wants to know if she can keep him. "Ain't he a beauty?" she asks. Anywho, they go to a square dance and - convenience of convenience - the bad guys decided to shoot up the place. They are considerate, though - they waited for the last do-si-do.

One of the musicians, and he is on the screen for about a minute, is Spade Cooley who, later became a double for Rogers, mainly due to the fact that the two were lookalikes.

The baddies aren't finished. They shoot the editor of the local paper 'cause he was about to expose them. They only injured him - poor shots. (I had an editor once who was half shot).

So - if you like westerns, shooting sprees, fights, hard riding and all the grade-B offerings I guarantee you will enjoy "In Old Cheyenne."

* * * *

Miss Woodbury is far more interesting than many of the 'A' galstars. She was right at home "In Old Cheyenne" because she is part Indian. She spent seven of her young years being educated in a convent. Holy gee!

In this movie she portrayed Dolores Casino. Other names in other pics include Lolita (not that one) and Toto. Unlike many of her peers she enjoyed the grade-B movies because the 'A' re-takes were time consuming and boring. And, get this - when she retired she directed both light and grand opera.

Remember - her name is Joan Woodbury. She was the great niece of the founder of Woodbury Soap. Her momma was the third Rose Parade queen. Also, Miss W wrote for a Palm Springs newspaper. That's pretty historic since, in those days, women reporters were as scarce as hen's teeth.

Still more - the lovely lady was a child prodigy - a pianist - she spoke two languages - she was a prima ballerina, an artist whose works were displayed - and a photographer. I would love to have met this lady.

Watch the movie: In Old Cheyenne —»


Forbidden Music - 1936

Forbidden Music"Forbidden Music." Richard Tauber, Diana Napier, Jimmy Durante, June Clyde. 1936.

In writing movie reviews, I try to show a modicum of class but, this go-'round I am going to start my review of "Forbidden Music" - thusly: See this film, see this film, see this film, see this film, etc.

I thought it would be a pleasant hour or so - I never knew it would be so cotton-pickin' enjoyable - something I intend to watch several more times.

Now, if I tell you that the star, Richard Tauber, was second only to the great Caruso you might get the idea - gad - classical music - 'grumble-grumble'. So, right away I will tell you that if you are scared you might have to listen to some mournful music -- nothing could be further from the truth. Every song is a 'rouser' whether sung by the star or the residents of the zany kingdom he is visiting - Ruritania.

Upbeat - that's a good word to describe "Forbidden Music," formerly titled, "Land Without Music." It means that in this nutty little corner of the world - music has been outlawed and, if you think that's a far-fetched idea check my notes at the end of this review.

Tauber, hunky and handsome, portrays Mario Carlini. He falls in love with Princess Regent Maria Renata - the very lovely Diana Napier. Nothing far-fetched about that. In real life they were Mr. and Mrs.

Also in the story is Jonah J. Whistler, a reporter for a New York newspaper coming to town in a horse-and-wagon, accompanied by daughter, Sadie as portrayed by the cute June Clyde. The news guy is The Schnoz - the great Durante. He talks, she takes notes. (In my reportorial days I never had that luxury). He wants to write about the music ban and the fact that the king is selling black market instruments, smuggling them to the peasants. They are pleasant peasants - spirited and somewhat zany.

They march, they sing upbeat songs. They are a happy crew and they'll make you happy, too. Nineteenth century Ruritania was a fun place to live. Durante, in his inimitable way, describes the 'no music' edict as a 'catastastroke'.

The music was composed by Oscar Strauss, of that famed family, and the 'rousing-est' piece, performed by the townsfolk as they march, is called, "In the Sun."

The soldiers go thru town confiscating, and destroying, musical instruments. Carlini assesses the situation - the people rally 'round him and, eventually, music returns to Ruritania. Again, I say - take a chance on this happy, upbeat movie. You will enjoy it, just as I did. It is pure joy.

* * * *

If you think the idea of destroying instruments, depriving the town of its music, is far-fetched. WRONG! In our country, some Puritans banned certain musical instruments; During WW2, Israel banned the music of Richard Wagner, a notorious anti-Semite whose wife was a close friend of Herr Hitler and, on the other hand, the despotic ruler banned music by Jewish composers; In the Malian desert town of Kidal militiamen visited the home of a musician, threatening to cut off his fingers if he ever again plays the guitar; In northern Mali, a religious war has been declared on music.

An Islamic state in Libya burns musical instruments, declaring them as 'un-Islamic'; Maz Mahmud, a secular musician, wrote that "music is not something Allah likes." He notes that music can't be avoided, but the use of musical instruments should be avoided; Burma banned western musical instruments. (That's us); Of course, the Taliban 'Tali-banned' music. Musicians were forced to leave the country; In Afghanistan music is censored. The lives of professional musicians were completely disrupted - most had to go into exile; And, in the good ole USA, drums were verboten at the Grand Ole Opry. That changed when my man, Bob Wills, bought the Texas Playboys on stage - complete with a drummer.

* * * *

June Clyde was twice married to the same man - Thornton Freeland. There was a three year break between nuptials.

* * * *

Finally, and again I say - see "Forbidden Music." It is GREAT, GREAT fun with wonderful rousing music.

Watch the movie: Forbidden Music —»


Police Rookie - 1940

police RookiePolice Rookie." George Jones, Joyce Compton, Craig Reynolds, J. Farrell MacDonald, Veda Ann Borg, Mary Gordon. 1940.

Few rookies in "Police Rookie." This grade B cop caper features some of the most familiar names in the roster of 'bottom-of-the-double-feature' films and, in many cases co-starring in some biggies.

It takes an hour to figure out - who is the good guy, who is the bad guy. If you are looking for a decent story, this fills the bill; if you are looking for lotsa action - nope. Toward the end, there is a right good gun-fight, fist-fight scene and, that's when the 'raveled' plot gets unravaled.

The movie begins with a deadlocked jury declaring an obviously guilty man -- not guilty. It seems that a higher-up somewhere has been getting his way - way too often. An honest cop gets killed as he gets closer to close in on Mr. Big.

His son, Steve Hanagan, (again, this is one of those movies where almost everyone is Irish. Brogues abound) decides to become an officer for the sole purpose of finding out who killed his father. George Jones is the young man. At one point, Inspector Tim Ryan, (J. Farrell MacDonald) takes away the badge, charging incompetency.

Everybody is after Mr. Big, they just assay different modus operandi. Of course, there has to be a pretty lady involved. That would be Joyce Compton (Betty Casey) - she, of the innocent expressions. She spends some innocent time with our hero's best friend, and our hero catches them involved in an innocent 'bye-bye' kiss. His nostrils flare.

Meanwhile, through some Dick Tracy-like sleuthing he discovers some documents pointing to Uncle Jim Kelly (Sam Flint). He and an obedient henchman catch him in the act of discovery, and that's when the aforementioned fight action gets underway.
Conveniently, the best friend gets knocked off and offers an about-to-die spiel convincing one and all that our hero's girl friend is just that -- our heroes girl friend.

In the time-honored nick of time, the inspector enters the picture, and the picture ends. Our hero's badge isreturned and his anti-cop venom to the chief is obviously forgiven. So, the badge is re-pinned.

I usually veer from giving away too much plot. I want you to be surprised but, "Police Rookie" sort-of did that for me. By the way, I didn't mean to sound negative. Actually, the movie moves along at a decent pace and, you won't be too angry with yourself for staying with it.

* * * *

Toward the opening, look very quickly. The skinny court clerk is Arthur O'Connell who, of course, went on to bigger and better; the nightlub doorman's real name is Lester Dorr.

Jog your memory, and you might recall that Gordon Jones was a fairly familiar figure on the old Abbott and Costello teevee show. He had a very impressive career. "McClintock" and "Flying Tigers" were only two of his many film appearances.

Another vet of old teevee was Miss Compton, a regular on "Pete and Gladys." MacDonald began in silent films, then became a director, then returned to acting working with such big names as Frank Capra, Preston Sturges, and John Ford; Veda Ann Borg, floozy supreme, makes the most of a few minutes on-screen as a chatterbox.

The movie's original title was, "I Take This Oath." This was the very first film from the much criticized PRC Studio for whom my father worked, printing their flyers. I never said I came from a wealthy family.

Watch the movie: Police Rookie —»


Dixiana - 1930

Adventures of Kitty O'Day "Dixiana." Bebe Daniels, Everett Marshall, Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey, Bill Robinson.

It had been too many years since I'd seen this sparkling gem. "Dixiana" was a 1930 hit and, as far as I'm concerned it's also a 2016 hit. It has a dated look but, like wine or cheese it seems to have aged well. To be succinct - the dances are exciting, the singing is spot on, the comedy is wacky fun.

To be politically correct you have to learn early on that, since it takes place in a plush Southern plantation, there will be politically incorrectness but, there is nothing vicious. Entertainment-wise, the flick is an attention-getter from start to finish - and, I guarantee - the ending will surprise you. Let's just say that it's totally unexpected.

As is the movie. It does, of course, have a dated look but that will not deter you from thoroughly enjoying "Dixiana." That is the name of the film's heroine as so beautifully portrayed by Bebe Daniels. She was a top star in those days, and the longer you watch her in action, the more you will understand why she was an audience favorite.

She graced the screen from 1910 to 1955. Why not? She is button-cute, and had a voice that rivals any singing gal who graced the silver screen over the years. It's an old habit - the singer pops in for a song, the audience pops out for popcorn. This is one time that won't happen.

In spite of her name, 'Bebe' was 'top gun' on screen. For oodles of years, the major studios mixed a lot of comedy with the musical numbers, a mix that works especially well with Miss Dixiana.

The 'plot' has to do with the difficulties that arose when some uppity northerners bought themselves a Southern Plantation. That is where the 'political incorrectness' comes in. As the picture opens, we hear a chorus of slaves singing prettily. That is followed by one plantation owner bragging, "my slaves sing better than anyone around here." A friend says, "it's because they love you. You're always freeing one of them."

Needless to say, the locale is one of my favorite cities. The movie takes place, "way down yonder in New Orleans," as Louis A. often sang.

Throughout the flick there are imaginative, exciting dance numbers. There are clowns, acrobats, jazz dancers, and a couple of characters dressed like ostriches, pulling a wagon containing a giant 'ost' egg. Those gentlemen are the well-known - at that time - comedy team of Wheeler and Woolsey. They are a couple of pecans - if you get my drift. Their time on screen, which is plentiful, will have you ranging from chuckles to howling. That ostrich dance is, to say the least, different. Unlike what that they are carting about, it does not lay an egg.

So, I've taken care of the comedy, and the leading lady - and where there is a leading lady, there must be a leading man. That would be slick Everett Marshall as Carl Van Horn. And, where there is a leading man, there has to be a 'bad guy.' The two, of course, are competing for the hand of Dixiana - not to mention the rest of her. From top-of-head to tippy-toes she is 'cute' personified.

And, throughout the film there are one-liners including one gent proclaiming, "I had a wonderful dream. I dreamt I was a widower."

I noted earlier that the ole plantation was in the hands of some folks from (in hushed tones) up no'th. Gasp-gasp. To make matters even more interesting, the head knocker is a Pennsylvania Dutchman. Whoo! Thing are goin' south.

At a big party, the neighbors cavort and every one, including the extras, seem to be having a good time - er - including the madam. (The accent is on the second part of that word). There are discussions about the 'heirs' with someone proclaiming, "I've known my son since infantry." My - such sophisticated humor.

All of the 'action' is interspersed with excellent songs, excellent singers, especailly Van Horn. Things become particularly beautiful when Dixiana Caldwell gets together with Carl Van Horn. A great blend. Excuse me for saying so but, I think their duets surpass MacDonald and Eddy. Best of all, perhaps, is when voices join singing the movie's title tune.

I sang the praises of the songs sung and the singers that sang 'em, but I can't pass without mention of other excellent cast members. Jobyna Howland is a howl as Mrs. Birdie Van Horn and Ralf Harolde as Royal Montague.

To wind it up, there is a specialty number by the great Bill Robinson - dancing, climbing, jumping. If you watch the Lawrence Welk Show re-runs you will always see Arthur Duncan, always quick to acknowledge Robinson as his inspiration. Mr. Robinson's dance, on its own, was fan-damn-tastic.

"Dixiana" gets somewhat serious for just a few minutes before those dreaded words pop up on the screen: THE END. Otherwise, it features great music and great fun. See it!! That's an order.

* * * *

Bebe is a Dallas Daniels. Her list of screen credits is huuuge. And, she also sang with the Metropolitan Opera; Before taking up acting, Woolsey worked as a jockey; Bill Robinson, noted for his dance numbers with Shirley Temple, made his screen debut in "Dixiana."

Watch the movie: Dixiana —»


Tanks a Million - 1941

Adventures of Kitty O'Day'Tanks A Million." William Tracy, Joe Sawyer, James Gleason, Noah Beery Jr. 1941.

When I was a kid, I loved some of the silliest - funniest flicks ever made. There were several in a series of Army comedies hurtled on the happy public by Hal Roach. They starred William Tracy and Joe Sawyer. The former portrayed Pvt. Dorian Doubleday who, after a display of military knowledge, was quickly given sergeant's stripes. The other character, harried by the young genius, was Joe Sawyer.

"Tanks A Million" introduced them to an unsuspecting, but very happy, public - happy enough to enjoy their antics in eight movies - each one under an hour. In that short space of time they had most of us in a constant state of laughter.

They somewhat resembled "Beetle Bailey" the nemesis of the 'old sarge'. It was a perfect coupling. Doubleday, better known as Dodo, is introduced to us as a young civilian answering the most difficult questions on an intelligentsia radio program. He displayed his knowledge onthe a variety of subjects. In the Army he displayed his knowledge of everything military.

A couple days after arriving for basic training he so impresses the brass, he winds up with stripes. He is so smart, they make him a sergeant. This is, of course, fiction at its best. Naturally, Sgt. Ames (Tracy) resents this. An intelligent sergeant? I told you this scenario was fiction.

Dodo gets the opportunity to put his fellow recruits thru some military maneuvering - lots of marching, etc. - while Sawyer more or less resentfully looks on, and seethes. See the seethes. Dodo has his crew marching smartly as he puts them thru their paces.

The young man doesn't intentionally show off- it's just that he is smarter than Wikipedia (no nasty comments, please) as he recites everything from the manual of arms.

When the film starts, we see him on a radio show showing off his intelligentsia. He carries on, and on, and on until the station cuts him off in mid-sentence. Speaking of sentences, the sarge has a good one when talking about Dodo. He refers to him as, "the draft board's greatest blunder."

As for the sarge, he is so frustrated, he manages to walk into an officer or two, knocking 'em down as if delivering a Joe Louis punch.

The most fun in these movies is the back 'n forth dialogue between the two main characters. The sarge is in a constant state of frustration; Dodo is triple 'C' - calm, cool, and collected.

The whole thing is Hilarity with - see? - a capital 'H'. The two are a perfect match or, should I say, a perfect mismatch.

"Tanks A Million" - a clever title - was released two months before Pearl Harbor. The interest in things military was beginning to peak, even if the movie is - er - 'non-serious'.

As far as the plot is concerned, guys in the military loved the non-com put-downs.

The action takes place in Camp Carver. The crusty sarge and the man with a lot of crust, make a terrific pair, playing off one another. The dialogue is wild 'n funny, the facial expressions alone are worth the price of admission.

Let Roach 'bug' you. Put your brain 'at ease' and see what the Army was really like. Yeah, right.

"Tanks A Million" will keep you laughing from start to finish. I give it a 10 on an 'urge to see' scale.

Sawyer as Sgt. Ames aims to please, and Tracy as Dodo does-does keep you laughing. The dimbulbs make Abbott and Costello look absolutely brilliant.

"Tanks A Million." You'll 'tank' me for this recommendation.

Several in the cast are 'B' movie favorites, such as James Gleason, lovely Elyse Knox (no relation to 'Fort'), Frank Faylen, Dick Wessel (who has bit roles, it seems, in every other 'B' movie) Dub Taylor, another popular character actor, makes a brief appearance as a hillbilly, a role he often played.

The radio interviewer was portrayed by Knox Manning who, in real life, was -- a radio announcer.

Hard to believe but, as Jimbo points out in his notes, Tracy attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC where, of course, he learned the art of 'Dodo-ing'. Also from Jimbo, and this floored me, is the fact that the movie was nominated for an Academy Award. "Wow" Hey, Jimbo, are you sure you" weren't thinking of "Gone With the Wind"?

Watch the movie: Tanks A Million —»


Detective Kitty O'Day - 1944

Adventures of Kitty O'Day"Note: I recently penned a rave review about the adventures of Kitty O'Day. I asked O'Day expert Jimbo if there was another movie about the daffy redhead. The answer was 'yes'. It was made a year earlier.

"Detective Kitty O'Day." Jean Parker, Peter Cookson, Tim Ryan, Veda Ann Borg, Edward Gargan, Pat Gleason. 1944.

Once again, Jean Parker is a telephone operator, not for a hotel this time but for an investment firm. And, once again she listens to the conversations and, once again, she and her boyfriend get tangled up in a comedy murder mystery and, once again they drive Chief Inspector Clancy kee-razy and, once again there is an hour of wild action and silly, but funny, dialogue.

For the most part, the main characters are the same, i.e. Parker, boyfriend Peter Cookson as Johnny Jones, Tim Ryan as Clancy and, once again one of the major nuts - Edward Gargan as Police Detective Mike.

In both movies, O'Day is a poor man's detective. Her job is to drive Clancy to an early grave. Speaking of which, bodies abound and, no surprise, our heroine has all the answers as to 'who-dun-it'.

The victim is Oliver Wentworth (Edward Earle) - O'Day's boss - and she is suspected of being his 'murder-ess'. Many of the scenes are 'tried and true' beginning with the opening murder, continuing with a darkened house. O'Day and the butler wander about, each holding a candle, prompting yours truly to note that few such performers can hold a candle to her.

Seems that O'Day and Jones are supposed to see a play. As usual, she wants to solve the case, and her harried boyfriend (Cookson's first role) wants to live normally.

O'Day, of course, has the last word so, they try to solve the murder and, they try to find out what happened to her boss's important papers. Jones is frustrated because he put out $8.40 for two seats for a first-run Broadway play. (Those prices, of course, have double quadrupled since the '40s).

O'Day's boss is supposed to be on a business trip instead, he becomes a corpse. While in his darkened house a man of mystery lurks. And, the lurker has squeaky shoes.

That's about as much 'quiet' as you will get in this madcap movie. The owner of the house, Wentworth, is retired as Kitty's boss. For good reason. He is kaput. Yeah, but how? Seems he was drowned in the bathtub but, there is also a suspicious looking hangman's rope. Gargan, as Mike, has the answer. Dig this: "After they drowned him, they hung him up to dry."

His frustrated boss, Clancy, has the answer to that: "I gotta hand it to you. When you're wrong, you're 100 per cent wrong." Meanwhile, our hero and heroine are nosing around for clues. (They should look in the 'clues' closet). She poses as a maid, he as a janitor, although his outfit looks like he should be driving a locomotive.

A lot of old tricks are pulled out of the bags. For one, they are on the 20th floor, and half the performers are dashing around the ledges, as they look down at the traffic below.

Naturally, there's a lot of screaming. And, there is the age old gag of swiftly opening a locked door - Mike runs through that door, into the room and, swiftly, out of the next door. Classic timing.

If there's a ha-ha highlight, it's the wild, wild fight between the bad guys, and the cops and O'Day and her b.f. Miss Parker really goes to town in this scene. Her weapon of choice is her pocketbook. I get the idea that the director gave everybody carte blanche - hit when you can and who you can.

Are the crimes solved? But, of course and, who is the chief solver? Three guesses and the first two don't count. Oh, and wait till you see how Kitty and the b.f. are rewarded.

Before all that mayhem, the 'maid' and 'janitor' get caught nosing around for clues. He's on his knees calling out, "here kitty, kitty, here kitty, kitty."

Sophistication - forget it and, don't look for plot holes - just sit back and enjoy and, like me, you will probably wish there were more Kitty O'Day flicks.

* * * *

Pat Gleason has a fair-sized role as a cab driver. He's been seen in many, many movies. Both his dad and mom were in the Marine Corps. The Gleason family came from Gleason, Wisconsin.

Much of the fun can be credited to Tim Ryan, who portrayed Chief Inspector Clancy and, when he wasn't busy performing he was busy as the movie's screenwriter.

Veda Ann Borg, who appeared in many movies, has a minor role - on screen for about five minutes.

Watch the movie: Adventures of Kitty O'Day —»


Chu-Chin-Chow - 1934

Evel Knievel"Chu Chin Chow." George Robey, Fritz Kortner, Anna May Wong, John Garrick, Pearl Argyle, Malcolm 'Mr. Jetsam' McEachern. 1934.

It is a mix of Three Stooges nutiness, Marx Brothers craziness, Ritz Brothers weirdness, and The Bowery Boys. You get the picture. It sounds like something from an Oriental menu. It is the 'mein' course, listed as "Chu Chin Chow." (Gesundheit). It's the well-known tale of Ali Baba And the 38 Thieves. (Nancy and Sluggo deserted and moved to Brooklyn).

Their tale, of course, is quite familiar but, this time it's set to music - excellent singing and dancing, but the main courses contain a lot of nuts and corn. You can't watch this movie without engaging in continuous laughter. You don't have to be a fan of Arabian adventures to enjoy "Chu Chin Chow."

The star is George Robey who was one of Britain's funniest funnymen. He portrays Baba, mugging shamelessly, moving about like one cursed. He is generally, the chief laugh getter - a 10-plus on the laugh meter. His every movement, his every expression are priceless. You will find yourself staring at him and wondering if he is 'for real'.

I will try to control myself writing this review. I promise - no chow mein, or chop suey jokes. There is food a-plenty, though. The movie opens with a banquet scene making Henry 8 look like a rank eatin' amateur. All involved are as glutton-es as they come.

A few of the lines might be found in Milton Berle's thousand-or-so page joke books. (He compiled two of them). Take, for instance, a lacky who offers Baba a glass of - ostensibly - water. He drinks, then turns to the servant, asking, "may I have another cup - to poison the rest of me?" Another favorite gag comes during a man vs. woman scene, when one of the men rightfully declares, "even a woman can have an idea."

When they're not tossing jokes back and forth, there is plenty going on. A treat for the eyes - most of them anyway - are the troops of dancing girls, sometimes going thru routines that might make Busby Berkeley a tad jealous. All of the costumes look authentic Arabic and, if you are worried about the kiddies - forget it. This '34 pic could easily get a rating of 'G' - as in, 'gee this is a helluva lot of fun.'

Four stars to the costumer, and a like amount to the mini-operetta, kind of a low-life Gilbert and Sullivan. Wanna know about plot? Baba is a poor woodsman who discovers a secret cave, used by - right - 40 thieves. It is filled, almost floor to ceiling with gold, treasures and lottery tickets.

The palace populace want to get their dirty hands on some of it -- correction -- all of it, but our hero ain't talkin' and, as happens with so many movies, there are ways to make him talk. By the way, another crazy actor, Fritz Kortner as Abu Hasan, is a bandit pretending to be CCC.

The rich folk, of course, have a slew of slaves, most of them quite delicious looking. Some of them are tied to a big, heavy wheel, used to open the cave of riches. What's the magic phrase? Altogether now - OPEN SESAME. As the cave entrance slowly, and squeakily opens, you hear march music in the background - Sousa-like stuff.

Remember the old line - "ve haf vays to make you talk?" Well, there are a few prisoners, behind bars, and they are without cell phones but, they have their trusty carrier pigeons. (None named Walter).

The prisoners try to, and eventually do, escape, so there are battles galore. "Ben Hur" this ain't. The sword-like weapons are weird, bows and arrows enter some bodies and down go their owners. Nothing bloody. Some of the scantily clad slaves are up for grabs on the slave market. And, we are there on bargain day - two for the price of one. (Personal note: There is, of course, nothing humorous about slavery, but you can lighten up this one time. There was nothing funny about Hitler, until Charlie Chaplin made him a laughing stock).

The call to battle is a biig gong, possibly borrowed from J. Arthur Rank.

Other cast members to look for include Anna May Wong (nothing 'wong' with her). The Chinese beauty graces every scene. Another beauty is Marjanah, a servant girl. She is portrayed by - and I love this name - Pearl Argyle (named in honor of jeweled socks?). She, too is an eyeful.

Dennis Hoey is a comic deluxe, as is his - heavy set wife. She is Sidney (that's right) Fairbrother (that's right, too). She eats and eats and, when something strikes her as funny - she giggles (sort-of a tee-hee thing), and she nags-nags-nags. John Garrick as A. B.'s son, Nur-al-din Baba is an excellent singer who hits some of the lowest notes you'll ever hear - lower even than Harold Reid of The Statler Brothers.

The locale of all this nuttiness, of course, is Baghdad. In that city, crowds often gather - for whatever reason - and, honestly, the extras fill the screen. So, what happens? What about the riches? Just you watch and, watch for a really exciting scene, a poor man's ballet that begins with a bottle of water.

You get the picture. You should. It is hilarious. It is "Chu Chin Chow." Freely translated it means, 'wipe that chow off your chin, Chu.' Chu? Funny, he doesn't look 'Chu-ish.

* * * *

The original screen version had no music. Well, it did come out in 1923; Speaking of 'no music,' the American version also had zilch. Its title was "Ali Baba Nights." And, a stage version in Great Britain ran steadily from 1916 to 1920. Quite a run; Robey entertained the troops -- of World War 1; The inimitable Miss Fairbrother (and I'm not making this up) always carried a pet white rat in her blouse. (I think his name was 'Booby).

One more thing, there is a restaurant in London. Can you guess its name??

Watch the movie: Chu-Chin-Chow —»


Evel Knievel - 1971

Evel Knievel"Evel Knievel." George Hamilton, Sue Lyon, Bert Freed, Rod Cameron, Dub Taylor. 1971.

The story of the motorcycle daredevil is sure-as-hell colorful. I call it 'faction' i.e. part fact, part fiction. Most of the movie was made in Butte, Montana - the motorcyclists home town and, of course, the film begins with a quickie look at the star as a little boy, one who - surprise-surprise - is fascinated by motorcycles.

That established, we take a look at his first 'show-off'shows' jumping over some cars and, from there, of course, it builds up - more cars, some trucks. To further advertise his 'daredevilness' he brags that he never jumps over Datsuns or Volkswagens. Oh, the opening scene involving a parked car is a 'doozy.'

Soon after the movie begins, in addition to young ladies going nuts-o over him, he goes slightly nuts-o over Linda. Her real name was Krystal. They stayed hitched more than 40 years. Sue Lyon was quite good in that role. Of course, her best known role was as "Lolita." In this film he does give other girls the once-over but his passion was motorcycles, not women.

The movie shows Linda as 'numero uno' and it lets us know that one thing she wanted from E. K. was to get outta town. In other words, the beaut from Butte sought the exit sign.

Speaking of that mid-western town, a lot of the film was made downtown and, it's sort-of a kick to see cars in the street that, today, would be in an antique car show.

One thing you will notice, I guess, is that there are no 'hot' man-woman scenes. That part of the movie is as tame as the Food Lion lion. Another thing you will notice - and, no surprise here - is that there are no other motorcycles, but Harley Davidson. (I always thought that would be a good name for an actor. You know - handsome Harley Davidson in "Vroom Vroom").

Hamilton does a good job of displaying Knievel's brash, brass attitude. He is encouraged by an old-timer Charlie Kneeson. That is an old timer portraying an old timer. Rod Cameron - remember?

Throughout the movie there are allusions to the Grand Canyon and the picture ends with a look at the beautiful scenic attraction. (I recommend a trip there for your next vacation. We went with friends and had a grand Grand Canyon time). Evel constantly talks about a jump there but, obviously we don't see it since that happened three years later. If you want to see it check Evel Knievel in "Evel Knievel."

We do see him playing basketball and, he lets the world know, "I'm a master of all sports." Sport number one, of course, is motorcycling and, we see a lot of good scenes involving those races and EK's daredevil stunts. Hamilton on a motorcycle? Oh, yeah - with stuntmen handling the rough stuff. It matters not - it's still a mix of fun and excitement.

If there is such a thing as 'Motorcycle Magazine' they probably turned up their snoops at the movie but, for the fun of it, for the cinematic excitement, this flick will definitely do. Along that line, is the line from the cycle star, "I don't do stunts. I practice."

A highlight scene shows our hero motorcycling up a flight of stairs, into a ladie's dorm, and right, smack into Linda's room. She, of course, hops on and they're off. A funny line shows the older lady who is in charge of the girls calling the police and complaining that, "men are not allowed in here." I will add that the 'talky-talky' scenes are blessedly brief. Incidentally, the real name of one of the actresses in that sorority house was Jayne Melon and - no - I won't touch that with a 10-foot pole, or a 5-foot Czechoslovak.

There are scenes of some plug-uglies, motorcycle gang members, trying to give our hero a hard time. Said hero, tosses in a little bit of cycle politico by putting those characters down, announcing that they are the ones who give motorcycling a bad name. (clap-clap). Oh, and he pulls no punches, particularly citing, "Easy Rider."

As we all know, Knievel suffered more, many more, falls and injuries. According to the Guiness Book of World Records, he broke bones 35 times. His lifetime record for fractures is 433. He endured 14 operations, survived a 29 day coma and, at one point, gulped 48 pills a day to stay alive. One romanticist said, "he died in her (Krystal's, of course) arms." He was quite sick before he died in '07.

So, there must be some hospital scenes but, most of the scenes involve his many, many daredevil accomplishments. The pic, by the way, probably got a 'G' rating, which is more than can be said of Hamilton's life. By his count, he slept with 2,000 females. That's more than the population of my li'l hometown.

It occurs to me that a movie about the handsome actor would be - er - exciting: George Hamilton and a cast of 2,000 --- women, starring in "George Hamilton." It would not be a PG film. "Evel Knievel" is and, you will enjoy it - the excitement is just about non-stop.

The star was also the producer, so blame him or credit him.

* * * *

If you remember, Hamilton also portrayed Hank Williams Sr. and was put down by Hank Jr. who puts down anything-anyone he doesn't like.

* * * *

In a poll taken in Great Britain, the great Hamilton was proclaimed, the best foreign actor. Wife-y Alana, a model-actress, later married one of my fave singers, Rod Stewart.

Re: the subject matter - his name was Robert Craig Knievel. He felt the Evel nickname would be colorful. Originally, it was Evil Knievel but, in deference to church groups, the 'i' was replaced by 'e'.

Wife-y Alana, a model-actress, later married one of my fave singers, Rod Stewart. His sons had major problems - one was addicted to drugs and alcohol and, the other - well - it had to do with a bathroom stall and a girl. I go no further.

Finally, the story of Hamilton and the waitress. He looked familiar to her and she asked, "have I ever seen you before?" He said, "you might have seen me in the movies." The waitress said, "it's possible. Where do you sit?"

Watch the movie: Evel Knievel —»


Road to Bali 1952

The Road to Bali"Road To Bali." Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour. Special appearance by Jane Russell. 1952.

It was a bad day at Black Rock. Spencer was in a Tracy tizzy and needed some cheering up so, he did what any sensible person would do. He looked over the fat list of Jimbo movie offerings and, there it was - a Hope-Crosby road flick.

He had been with them in Singapore, Zanzibar, Morocco, Utopia, Rio and, would have stayed with them on "The Road To the Fountain Of Youth," but Crosby died of a heart attack before that could be filmed.

Spencer saw they were on the "Road To Bali" and decided he could watch that and get rid of the blues. He watched - he did. And, I did. And, everybody who joined us did.

Lovely Lamour, of course, was with the twosome and, like the rest of us, wasn't always sure what was going to happen next - script or no script. Matter-of-fact, it's been reported that even the 'script' writers weren't quite sure - script or no script.

Of one thing you can be sure. Do what Spencer did, and travel the road to Bali, a beautiful place in Indonesia and, undoubtedly, hot-hot since it is only eight degrees from the Equator.

The laughs came - thick and fast - while B&B were still in Australia. There was a theater there and the 'stoopid' announcer told the folks they were about to watch two distinguished concert artists. HA! It turned out to be the dancing duo with one of their 'ye olde' song 'n dance routines. The audience loved it - and those watching from the comfort of home-sweet-home loved it.

Eventually, they exited the Land Down Under for the land way down under - Bali. Once they arrived they tried to figure out ways to earn enough money to continue to eat. Jobs were scarce but, they came across a sign and saw that someone was looking for a deep sea diver. Sounded good. They volunteered - well, Bing did as long as he could have the cushier job.

Getting there was a bit tough. Who was going to stay aboard ship - who was going to get into a crude diving suit? As always, the answer was - Bing would stay topside, Bob, who spent much time in 'dives' - would dive.

It looked good until a stupid looking, ugly, hungry giant squid approached - 'Hope'-ing for a meal. However, it was too early in the picture for that, so he was yanked ashore and, awaaay they went.

Beautiful Bali looked good- the beautiful Miss Lamour - looked 'good-er' and, to make things more interesting, she turned out to be a princess. The 'boys' of course fell over each other to win that fair - no, dark-haired - lady. Meanwhile, Ken Arok, (Murvyn Vye) was ready to take over as the country's leader. (That actor has snarled his way thru several 'Road' movies). So, who gets to sit in Bali's royal chair? Arok had the henchmen - Lamour, as Princess Lala had the soft beauty so, it looked like no contest.

Even in Bali, the laughs came thick and fast and, as usual, there were beaucoup asides to the audience - references to Paramount, among other things. Some of the funniest stuff came with gags about Pirates and Indians. You knew, of course, that Hope owned some Cleveland-ers and Crosby had an interest in the - then - hopeless Pittsburgh team. Insert - Lamour: "You have pirates in America?" (Little did she know).

Other pieces of action include a tiger-gorilla fight with the former winning and the latter dragged off by her sweetheart. Before all of that there was the m.i.t.g.s. (man in the gorilla suit) making our heroes nervous - happy, but nervous.

Of course Dottie L had to keep busy, so she did an Esther Williams - enjoying a swim in a lovely back-of-the-studio pool, while singing a song about "Moonflowers." And, there were many dancing girls doing amusing-amazing routines with a Balinese touch.

Meanwhile, a gaggle of local beauties were fussing over our heroes. In the background, a sort-of scream. Hope explained the source. It was Errol Flynn and he was jealous.

A lot of the action was in the palace, giving Hope the opportunity to note, "I've always wanted to play the Palace." Well, they played the 'Bali' palace - at one point donning kilts and 'playing' bagpipes. Once again, they were entertaining the crowd. It was an enjoyable, fun piece. They did a Scottish dance which, somehow, evolved into a jitterbug. Ah--h- those Americans.

When they weren't entertaining, they would be entertained - with the old routine about someone, or something, wiggling out of the basket. This time it was a rope reaching skyward. Our heroes, of course, climbed. At first, they were told there was the traditional snake in the basket. Out of the basket comes a definitely-not-so-fair maiden. Ugggly!

Ken Arok was constantly on their tails and, once again, kudos to Vye who takes everything so seriously - the perfect villain. Somewhere down the line, of course, Bing takes his turn with a ballad but, before he croons, his partner says, "he's gonna sing folks - now is the time to go out and get popcorn." Jimbo, of course, dashed right out, coming back in time for the last note.

Like all good 'Road' pictures, this one includes guest spots from some other famous folk but, none of them stay on the screen more than about 30 seconds. Bing's bro, Bob' makes an appearance - Martin and Lewis do nothing but mug. Bogie sort-of makes an appearance, but there is just a shot of him scowling, a scene from "The African Queen." There is one other 'guest' but, she comes around at the very end of the movie.

And, there is the scene when some of the 'Murvin men' shoot darts at our heroes. One, it turns out, makes the 'recipient' do the Moroccan Twist. As in most 'Road' pics there is the patty cake routine but, this time, it has a different 'ending.

When it gets to the point where it looks as if Vye - vying for Lamour to lead the kingdom - is getting his way, things happen and we find out that Miss Lamour's poppa was a good friend of an old, beloved ruler. Things really turn around when a volcano, as it were, blows its top - good scenes of that and the populace getting-the-hell-out-of-the-way. It wreaks havoc (not June) and by the time it runs down it looks as if Princess LaLa will rule. She does in most of these pictures - as a rule.

Three of my favorite scenes. The boys are in the middle of a herd of sheep (you've heard of sheep) and they break out with "The Whiffenpoof Song," with the animals taking the 'baa-baa-baa part. And, there is the scene where Bing and Bob are leaning against a branch, but don't fall. The explanation? "Paramount wouldn't allow it." My 'favoritest' scene is when it is announced that Princess Lala will marry. The happy citizens of Bali cry out - "Mazeltov - mazeltov." If that means nothing to you check your Yiddish dictionary.

As for the end of the picture, I shan't say a thing about it, except to note that it is downright daffy. Who gets Lala? Ha-ha, that is a complete surprise and, it involves special guest, Jane Russell, wearing the outfit she wore in "Son Of Paleface."

Oh, there are a few scenes that just net a guffaw or two but, most of the movie is downright crazy-funny. So, do what Mr. Spencer did. You might even forget there are bills to pay.

* * *

"Road To Bali" was the first of the road pics in technicolor. In one scene there is a reference, of sorts, to color teevee. This was in '52 before color teevee was a fact of life. There was a proposal for color television in 1938. In 1951, June 21, CBS broadcast the first color program.

During World War 2 Miss Lamour, who was one of the best loved stars in Hollywood, toured the U.S and is credited with the sale of $300 million in war bonds. Nothing sa-(w)rong with that.

An actor named Leon Askin portrayed Ramayana. Later, he was a General on "Hogan's Heroes."

Watch the movie: Road to Bali —»


David and Goliath 1960

The Big Lift "David and Goliath." Orson Welles. 1960.

Waaay back then, as the '60s began, the odd, but interesting version of the Biblical story of David and Goliath, was introduced as a 'spectacle'. Today, of course, a spectacle is something by Lucas or Spielberg, filled to the brim with very special effects. In checking this movie I am looking at it with the eye if a 1960 reviewer/moviegoer.

The original 'script' was in 1 Samuel 17. That was the inspiration for the movie, but there were some added attractions. To put it bluntly, the producers felt it necessary to 'jazz up' the familiar story.

The film was, basically, about good versus evil. The big draw was Orson Welles and his was the only recognizable name in the international cast. He shuffled about, very slowly (as us senior citizens often do) with a cane in each hand, showing us his age and 'feebleness'. As Saul, the first king of Israel, he is seen as too weak to continue serving/ruling his people. When he wasn't acting, he got his wits about him and served as one of the films three directors listed in the credit, although the only 'direction' in which Welles was involved were the scenes in which he appeared. Ferdinando Baldi and Richard Pottier handled the rest of the script.

Most of the movie was filmed near Rome. The production is Italian. The 'conversations' were dubbed in English, a blessing for those who are less than thrilled with sub-titles. The movie had its world premiere in Italy and, it got to the U. S. a year later. The dialog seems authentic. It is in King James English. Some liberty is taken as the producers decided to introduce a few side stories and, they decided to add some characters not mentioned in the Bible.

Except for those things, King Saul's 'script' is, purportedly, fairly accurate. Mr. Welles hobbles about, looks and speaks slowly and shows his (Saul's) age. If you are a Welles fan you will appreciate him; if not, just sit, listen, and learn

If you know your Bible you know that "David and Goliath" is an Old Testament story about the Philistines-Israelites battle.

Up front, I am far from being a Biblical scholar so cut me some slack. Anyway, Saul hears the words of the prophets and he is ready to retire, to make way for the new king who will be a shepherd - a humble shepherd - David, by name.

Becoming king does not come easily. A big, verrry big, man stands in the way - a giant named, of course, Goliath. He is portrayed by an actor with only one name - Kronos. (Sounds like a sci-fi handle). Because of his height, his muscles, and his 'better than thou' attitude, he is chosen to prevent David from wearing the crown. He has no real lines in the movie. He groans a lot, offers an unfortunately evil laugh, and moves about like a wooden soldier.

Now, David is a handsome youth. Since he goes around naked from the waist up, we can see that he, too, is muscular. But, his claim to fame is his ability to use a slingshot. Several scenes show him practicing and every time he uses the crude instrument, he hits the mark.

Eventually, he is ready to fight the mighty giant but, before we get to the battle - the movie's exciting climax - we sit through several side stories which may, or may not, come from the holy pages. The plan is to fight, and defeat the Philistines. Easier said than done. For one thing no one is willing to fight the big guy. No one, that is, until David volunteers.

Before we get to that, there are tales of love, and there are a couple of scenes of well-rehearsed damsels dancing about. The Rockettes they ain't, but they do manage to look semi-sensuous.

Some of the movie's best scenes are the crowd shots. The streets of the city look like sale day at Wal-Mart. Calling them crowded is an understatement. David wanders among them, pausing long enough to show his fearlessness by offering water to a man who has been the victim of a beating. This illustrates the heart of young David.

Eventually, we are ready for the climax, the fight between the title characters. It looks as if every extra in and around Rome are involved. Men and horses are all over the place. The fights, while bloody, are not always convincing. Very seldom do we see anything really gross. There is a scene which the NRA might not appreciate. It seems that officers and palace guards are the only ones who should be armed.

Faith and courage are the names of the game until one side surrenders. Duh - which side? The movie, of course, works up to the battle. If there were betting men around, they would put their money on Goliath - the mighty giant. For a young man who spends most of his time tending sheep (watch for the tender scene involving a lamb) becoming involved with a grunting, groaning giant is quite a task. The big guy, himself, brags that none of his enemies will face up to him.

If you know your spiritual music, you know that 'little David plays on the harp - halleloo-halleloo'. And, if you know the Biblical story, you know that David is chosen to defend Israel. Now, he is backed by his army, and the battle scenes are busy and fairly impressive. The fight rages on.

The movie's highlights are the scenes showing the two sides facing each other - lots of men, lots of horses, lots of spectacle, more exciting, even, than a Trump rally.

And, there are lots of vultures flying about - not a good sign. They are awaiting dinner, and are not particular about who is serving.

So, there is this line from David: "I'll fight Goliath. God will help me." He does so with his trusty slingshot and a cache of stones. The major hit is, of course, one of those stones downing the mighty giant. The 'enemy' surrenders, and there is much cheering. As for Goliath's friends, they take off like bats out of hell. David's victorious army marches into the castle, which will soon be his home.

The little shepherd boy was the savior of Israel. The Philistines are out of the picture - the moving picture, that is.

tis said - and I said it -- "THOU WILT ENJOY THIS FILM."

* * *

In my "David and Goliath" review I mentioned the fact that Orson Welles directed only the scenes in the movie in which he was featured. Read on: He also directed a Biblical epic on Ro.Go.Pa.G - whatever that may be - in 1963. And, he did the off-screen narrative in another Biblical epic, "King Of Kings."

It doesn't end there. He also narrated a portion of the Biblical work, "The New Media Bible: "The Book Of Genesis."

Personally speaking? He said, "I try to be a Christian, but I don't really pray because I don't want to bore God." He said there are two things that can absolutely not be carried to God. One is praying to God. The other can't be printed in this family site. Sorry!

Welles, who had a Catholic upbringing," told Merv Griffin (remember that early TV talk show?), "I try to be a Christian, but I don't pray really, because I don't want to bore God." He also said this: "I have a great love and respect for religion. What I hate is agnosticism."

Watch the movie: David and Goliath —»


Kid Monk Baroni 1952

The Big Lift"Kid Monk Baroni." Richard Rober, Bruce Cabot, Allene Roberts, Leonard Nimoy, Jack Larson, Kathleen Freeman.

Right off the bat, a bit of advice about "Kid Monk Baroni." See it. Ain't no big budget, big star offering but, it is a thoroughly entertaining item that will keep you - well - thoroughly entertained.

For the first few minutes it looks like a Gorcey product but, while there are some parallels this one takes a different direction. The 'Kid' is a crazy, mixed-up boxer who is pulled in different directions - friends and an enemy or two telling him how to make a living, and how to live. How to make a living? Box. No, not packaging. Get in the ring and blast your hapless opponent.

Who is Kid Monk Baroni? If his name wasn't in the credits you would never guess. It is Spock - Leonard Nimoy, that is. I went through the whole movie in a state of denial. He was 19 when he stepped into the ring and, he looks nothing like Spock. This is where the picture sort-of gets me. He is supposed to be - well - not handsome. His nose, the screenwriters tell us, is out of joint. Maybe my glasses were foggy. He looked okay as far as I was concerned. I had to keep telling myself - that is Spock.

That is Spock - that is Spock - that is Spock. See? I told you I had to keep telling myself it was Leonard Nimoy - a nice Jewish resident of Little Italy in NYC.

If you don't think he is 'Italian' listen to his parents. Every-uh word-uh ends with an 'uh'. Momma, incidentally, is a woman you have seen many, many times on the tube and big screen. Kathleen Freeman speaks perfect English - sort-of midwestern, and she has been acting for more than half-a-century.

Monk is an only child - unusual for an Italian family - and, for the most part, he's a good boy -- not a saint, but a good boy. He leads a gang of semi- tough guys and, like Gorcey, watches over his crew.

They meet in some space where they gather and keep active and, for the most part, they keep out of trouble. The only trouble comes from a rival gang and there is a brief encounter (shades of Noel Coward) wherein our hero knocks their hero out - completely out.

Anyway, things get straightened out thanks, mainly, to Father Callahan who is, of course, warm and caring and, of course, he sees a lot of good in Monk. He sees him in the ring and decides that boxing would be a good outlet. It is very good for Monk who wins fight after fight after fight, more often than not by putting his opponents away after the first round.

He is so hot, the 'syndicate' decides to sponsor him, betting on him as a sure thing. So, all is well. Yeah, right. His manager is a Mr. Hellman (not the mayonnaise tycoon). He makes friends with Monk, a 'front' for using him to make more than a few bucks. Said manager is Bruce Cabot, a veteran who usually plays pretty decent guys.

The more headlines, the more money Monk-man spends and the more time he spends in the lap of luxury. He hides away in splendor. Meanwhile, Hellman is looking for him, finally catching up with our hero in a seedy hotel. He has 'over spent'. The weary boxer asks Hellman how he caught up with him. The reply is a doozy. "I followed the trail of unpaid bills." Har-de-har.

Not surprisingly, a girl enters the picture - the moving picture. Her name is Emily Brooks. She is quite cute and, obviously, as pure as the driven snow. She 'sees' something good in our hero and, not surprisingly, they fall in love. Ah-h-h.

She loves the 'old' Monk - the person he was before the hot-shot gamblers got their grubby paws on him. So, he wins match after match and, we see headlines and names of cities flash across the screen, testimony to his success. You've probably guessed it - the richer he becomes, the more obnoxious he becomes; the more he acts like a hotshot, the more Miss Purity backs off.

Aw, so what. Another chick is waiting. She likes his looks and, well, they bond. What happens with that romance? What happens with romance number one? I ain't talkin'. You know how to call it up on your computer.

I will say that he gets a face-lift and his 'lesser' nose lets us know he is now a handsome dude. Heck, I thought, all along, that he was a pretty good looking guy.

Anyway, operation over, more matches are won, more money to buy more things, and the more obnoxious he becomes. How do the two young ladies handle all this?

He stays in the ring, this time going big time. His first major fight is in Staten Island. I guess he grimaces because someone tells him he will enjoy the ferryboat ride. That is the locale for the big bout. He remembers the good Father's priestly, Biblical advice - and I quote: "The left jab is your best friend." The priest is sort-of like a young Barry Fitzgerald - dispensing biblical and non-biblical philosophy and, doing it without the help of a crooning priest.

What about his career as a member of the choir? You get a hint of his love for church music when the camera catches up to him in a record store, listening to Italian classical opera. Incidentally, on the door of a room in that store is an ad for Les Paul and Mary Ford. Appropriate, I guess, since that twosome was known for their pre-divorce fights.

How does it all end? You know I'm not gonna say. I will just note that he is torn between boxing and Vivaldi.

The movie plays it straight but, there is a need for comedy relief. It is supplied by Angelo as portrayed by Jack Larson, best known as Superman's buddy, Jimmy Olsen. He is no brighter in this movie than he was with the super guy.

The philosophy of this movie is that, "people pay good money to see you get hit - to see you get hurt." Happy ending? But, of course. How does the moviegoer get there? See "Kid Monk Baroni." You will enjoy it. The boxing movie is a knock-out.

* * * *A couple notes about those involved: The New York Daily Mirror was on the lookout for "America's Most Charming Child." There were 85,000 entries and, as they say in fight films - "the winnah is - Allene Roberts." Well, with a name like that ---. She had a lengthy career which included several guest appearances on "Dragnet." She met a non-professional, got married, settled in Huntsville, ALA. and had a couple kids, then a few grandkids. Soon after filming was completed in this movie, Rober was killed in an automobile accident.

Speaking of fighters, I knew a boxer who had 100 fights and won all but 99 of them. To his credit, sort-of, he fought like a baseball pitcher - he had a no-hitter. Still, a lot of people wanted to see him fight. That's why they got there early.

Can you name boxer-inventor George Foreman's five children? The answer, and this is true: George Foreman, George Foreman, George Foreman, George Foreman, George Foreman.

Watch the movie: Kid Monk Baroni —»


The Second Woman 1950

The Big Lift"The Second Woman," starring Robert Young, Betsy Drake, John Sutton." 1950.

I'm not sure what to make of "The Second Woman." The main woman is Ellen Foster (Betsy Drake). A few other females, mostly senior citizens, run in and out, but the story centers around Miss Drake, Mr. Robert Young as Jeff Cohalan (where do they dig up these unusual names?) and their on-again-off-again romance.

As so many such movies do, the opening scene shows waves lapping against a rocky shore. (Rocky Shore - wasn't he a pugilist?) This time they are below a fancy-schmancy house, wherein dwells the young Young in his pre-Welby days.

The question throughout the movie is - is he suffering from paranoia which, according to Mental Health America, is a mental disorder involving feelings of persecution - mistrust - suspicion and the like.

This being a mystery you have to figure out if Cohalan has that problem or is he being picked on by one or two of his friends who constantly talk to him nice-nice urging him to get some help.

A few minutes after the movie begins he meets Miss Foster who, with all her heart 'n soul, truly believes in him. Keith Ferris (a big wheel) as played by John Sutton has our hero believing he does have problems; Henry O'Neill as Ben Sheppard, Cohalan's architect boss, tosses around 101 reasons why our hero should seek medical help. At times, Cohalan feels he does need help but, there are times when he thinks he's beginning to wise up.

So, is he is or is he ain't? The movie movie-s along at a decent pace and you, Mr. and Mrs. Audience, are left to decide whatinhell is really going on. Several rotten things happen, and it always looks as if Cohalan is responsible. He is an architect whose plans for a new hospital are incomplete - his lovely house goes up in flames and, his faithful dog is poisoned.

A note about Fido. He is not mentioned in the credits, but he has several minutes on-screen showing him 'suffering' from a dose of poison. Acting honors go to the animal as he crawls along the ground, whimpers, then goes to doggie heaven. It is a performance equal to Lassie or Rin-Tin-Tin. He surely deserved an extra bone.

Anyway, the movie goes back and forth, back and forth as lousy things happen to our hero and most cast members point an accusing finger at him. They are not blaming him, they are blaming his paranoia and, initially, he believes the finger pointers.

As a member of the audience you have to decide does he, or does he not have a problem? Is he, or is he not being framed? Mostly, the film goes in both directions. Then, they make you think, perhaps, Cohalan is to blame. Or, is Ferris, his romance rival, setting him up so that he can have Ellen for himself? There is the obligatory scene where Ferris forces himself on Mrs. Grant - excuse me - Miss Foster but, we, the bright members of the audience, know cotton pickin' well who she prefers.

I won't delve into this any further, except to say - no - I leave it to you to figure it out and, when it all ends, you might ask yourself - what's goin' on here? Or, you might think - I didn't see that coming.

"The Second Woman" moves crisply along. It includes the obligatory speeding-car-along-a-two-lane-highway scene. Speaking of cars, there is a neat scene showing the car bearing down on our heroine. Fortunately, she is standing by a mailbox and, those were the days when the postmen (no women then) is putting letters in the box. He sees the car heading toward her, grabs her (not where the censors would worry) and saves her from all harm. It might be noted that mail delivery was a little late that day. Is he rewarded? Nah - but he is thanked.

As an ex-newsman I liked the scene where Ellen is listening to the radio and a report comes on about the fire. Usually, in such movies, the radio is conveniently switched off immediately following such news. In this movie, the announcer continues and goes on to another story. It's about Congress and, it seems, that as soon as she hears that word - then, she turns it off. Good girl.

Good entertainment is what you get with "Second Hand Woman." Give it a try. I think you'll like it and, see if you can figure out what really happened. YOU may, but someone else may not. Heh-heh!

****Betsy Drake was Mrs. Cary Grant when this movie was made - one of five. They divorced but remained good friends. She died last November at the age of 92. She gave up her career to be whatever passed for a housewife in ole Hollywood. Most folks don't know it, but she was born in France.

The actress wrote the screenplay for one of Grant's best movies, "Houseboat." Oh, Mr. and Mrs. Grant appeared in two movies together including one with the ominous title - "Every Girl Should Be Married." From the book - "Yeah - right!"

Watch the movie: The Second Woman —»


Panic in the Streets 1950

The Big Lift"Panic In the Streets," starring Richard Widmark, Walter Jack Palance, Barbara Bel Geddes, Paul Douglas. 1950.

"Panic In the Streets" was directed by Elia Kazan so, you can be pretty sure it is going to be an exciting movie. And, the cast. Woo-ha. It is an all-star group headed by Richard Widmark, Barbara Bel Geddes, Paul Douglas, and Walter Jack Palance in his feature film debut. Later, he dropped his first name for the credits.

Look what you have. Palance and Widmark, two of that era's most famous bad guys. It seems as if someone tossed a coin and gave the 'mean' part to Palance and, for a change, Widmark was Mr. Nice Guy.

He is pleasant, Barbara Bel Geddes as his wife is pleasant, and Tommy Rettig as his son is pleasant.

The plot is simple enough. There is a corpse, and he sports two bullet holes so, he was shot, right? Right, but with reservations. The coroner's office finds, also, that the man has pneumonic plague, deadlier, even, than bubonic plague.

The major problem, the one that keeps the movie moving at a swift pace, is that if he is not identified within 48 hours the disease could affect the people of New Orleans. The movie was filmed in that city in 1950 with some great location shots.

Now, there is another problem (what's a movie like this with only one problem?). Widmark, as Lt. Cmdr. Clint Reed, MD, working for the Public Health Service, has the almost impossible task of convincing the naysayers that the body presents a danger to the people of N. O. The usual follows--officials don't want to say anything that would upset the city's citizens. Heaven forbid. Paul Douglas as Capt. Tim Warren of the N. O. Police seems to be on the fence about the situation.

Some officials, as is usually the case with movies like this, insist that if the word 'plague' is mentioned there will be -- see title. The story begins with Palance as Blackie, killing an illegal immigrant who won too much dough in a card game. Blackie goes after the victim's cousin, but it is left to the viewer to figure out the connection. Presumably, the cuz knows something. Said cousin, Vincent Poldi, is played by Tommy Cook who runs through the city with a 'changeless' expession showing the fright he feels.

And, who wouldn't be totally scared with the evil-looking, smirking Mr. Palance at your heels? The chase takes place in the N. O. waterfront - waterfronts are favorite locales for such pictures.

The ship, the Nile Queen, is docked there and that is the vessel that carried the man that carried the plague. A coffee warehouse, with its large bags of the brew, its staircases, its zigzag aisles, etc. is the locale for most of the action. One piece of action is particularly impressive - Palance climbing about on a rope. It looks, and is, dangerous. The actor did his own stunt work, which probably gave Kazan the heebie-jeebies.

Most of the excitement is at night - naturally - and the filming of that excitement is A-number one. All of the characters acquit themselves quite well but, face it, Palance is the kingpin of mean-nasty.

Permit me to get a bit personal. There are a couple scenes featuring Dan Riss as a newspaper reporter. He is adamant about printing the story, even against the wishes of those involved in the investigation. Kudos to Kazan for a beautiful portrayal. Without getting emotional or stupid he works hard to release the story. He is pictured as dedicated - he is not pictured as obnoxious. I spent nearly half-a-century with the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot and I can darn well appreciate those scenes. What finally happens? See movie.

If you like real excitement, action that doesn't look staged, "Panic In the Streets" is right up your alley - and the alleys of one of my favorite cities - New Orleans.

....A couple of notes. Tommy Rettig later became famous for playing second banana to a collie - Lassie; famed Dodgers pitcher, Sandy Koufax was Richard Widmark's son-in-law - for a while, anyway; Pneumonic plague is more vicious than bubonic; In Colorado, in 2014, there was a small outbreak of the fever. It was caused by a pit bull. (That's no bull).

The story was an Oscar winner - kudos to director Elia Kazan who received no recognition for portraying the morgue attendant.

Watch the movie: Panic in the Streets —»


The Big Lift 1950

The Big Lift"The Big Lift" starring Montgomery Clift, Paul Douglas, Cornell Borchers. 1950.

"The Big Lift" should be a must-see. It is an authentic history lesson about the Berlin Airlift called, "Operation Vittles." (Where did that Southern expression come from?). It tells of the Allied efforts to circumvent Russia's blockade of Berlin, the Soviet effort to 'starve out' the people of that city.

It is an inspirational, fascinating piece of history and, if any classroom wants to see 'the real thing' check out this movie, which would have been G-rated had there been such a thing as ratings in those days.

The film is unbelievably authentic. It was filmed five years after the German surrender - filmed in Berlin amongst the ruins of that city. Adding to the authenticity is the fact that all of the servicemen - officers and enlisted - are the real thing and, every one of them acquit themselves in a professional style.

The only Hollywood-ites are Montgomery Clift, and a former sports announcer, Paul Douglas. Both are satisfactory with Mr. D perhaps being a notch above.

Although the movie was made about five years after the Axis surrender, Berlin is still in utter ruin. Most of the people of the city are still struggling to stay alive. And, fraternization was still a nervous issue.

Nevertheless, there has to be a love story, and this one features contrasting people. Clift, as Sgt. First Class Dany McCullough, falls in love with Fredericka Burkhardt, a fraulein who, it turns out, is a two-faced fraulein. She pretends to love him in order to get passage to the New World and, once she arrives on our shores, she will send for sweetheart number one - a dedicated Nazi. Frederica is nicely portrayed by Cornell Borchers. (See the notes following this review).

Douglas, as Master Sgt. Henry 'Hank' Kowalski, gets involved with Gerda - the lovely Bruni Lobell. His background, as you can tell by his last name, is Polish so he dislikes Germans and constantly yells at her as he tries to explain what democracy is all about. If you want more about this relationship - heck - the answer is obvious. Watch the movie. Hank has another problem. He runs into the former guard at the prison where he spent some time. He proceeds to choke and whip him in an attempt to kill him. What finally happened? Again, I say - see the movie.

Mostly, watch it for what you can learn about "The Big Lift" and check the men in uniform - nothing even remotely amateurish about any of their performances. High praise for writer-director George Seaton, who also wore both hats for "Miracle On 34th Street."

There is an interesting scene in a nightclub - a German mens' quartet singing, "Chattanooga Choo Choo," and singing it quite well. Even during the war, American music was popular, although you had to go underground to hear it.

This cold war drama never lags. You will be thoroughly entranced and, as I noted before, you will learn a helluva lot of history - learn it the easy way.

Some of the highlights are the shots of the American planes flying over the ruins of Berlin. Those aerial shots are breathtaking.

My recent viewing was about the third time I saw the movie, a number unusual for me. Even the end is interesting. It shows some of the main uniformed characters offering their real names. The movie was Clift's prelude to, "A Place In the Sun." His scenes were shot first so he could get back to Hollywood for that landmark flick.

Also portraying themselves were Richard O'Malley, an Associated Press correspondent, and Lyford Moore, an American Broadcast Company correspondent.

Here's a note for you. There were some scenes in the Brandenburg Gate in the Soviet zone. So - the clever Russkies set up loudspeakers to mess up the scenes - so-o-o, the more clever Americans shot them minus the noise, and added the necessary dialogue later. To re-quote Bill Shakespeare -- "what fools these (Russian) mortals be."

This is the promised note about Miss Borchers: German actress Hildegard Knef was originally cast as Frederica. She got to Berlin - ready to perform, until - Seaton and producer William Perlberg found out about her relationship with Ewald von Demandowski, a Nazi bigwig. Miss Knef posed as a Nazi soldier to be near him when he became an SS officer. Her Hollywood career came to a screeching halt.

Miss Borchers had a pretty decent Hollywood career. After "The Big Lift," she co-starred with Rock Hudson in "Never Say Goodbye." Following her Hollywood career she retired to concentrate on raising her family.

* * *

The war years were, obviously, good years for good wartime movies. Here is a partial listing: "Bataan" and "Back To Bataan," "Destination Tokyo," "Guadalcanal Diary," "The Flying Tigers," "Action In the North Atlantic," "Wake Island," "The Story of G. I. Joe," "Sahara." Top of the list? "The Big Lift."

Watch the movie: The Big Lift —»


Of Human Bondage 1934

Of Human Bondage"Of Human Bondage" starring Bette Davis, Leslie Howard, Alan Hale, Reginald Owen. 1934.

"Of Human Bondage" (a great, appropriate title) stars Bette Davis and her expressive, rollin' eyes. It is the heart tugging, heart-breaking story of love unrequited.

She could have been the inspiration of Hank Williams for his hit about a "Cold, Cold Heart." She makes Ma Barker look like a candidate for sainthood.

BD is Mildred, a waitress, not 'waiting' for Philip Carey who, the very second he eyeballs her is madly, madly in love. Does she care? Not at all. She fancies herself as a 'strong' person. He exudes 'meek and mild', giving her the opportunity to walk all over him. It is a neat, sensitive portrayal by Leslie Howard (remember Ashley Wilkes in "Gone With the Wind"?)

He is trying to work his way through medical school, but his visions of things medical are overshadowed by 'seeing' her even when she's not physically in her sight. As she lets him know - several times - "you disgust me," and having a clubfoot doesn't help his cause. Valiantly, he limps his way thru the film.

Philip goes slightly crazy when he sees her going out with Mr. Miller, a rather despicable womanizer, a perfect portrayal by Alan Hale. The 'expected' happens - he leaves her, and 'their' baby.

Going from bad to worse, she is entranced by Philip's friend who tells jokes, keeps her laughing.

Philip is an 'okay' man and there are two ladies who would give their eyeteeth to become his Mrs. Norah is cute, Sally is cuter and, she has a sort-of crazy daddy who, it seems, does have a heart of gold and offers Philip a room in his spacious manse.

Our hero needs the room and board. He confesses to being broke. His medical studies have gone down the tube - at first. Eventually, he gets a degree and, of all things, a job as a shipboard medic.

Sally is sweet and perservering. Does it pay off? Check this gem and find out, and check the circumstances around it.

The scene that would be worth the price of admission is when Mildred (he takes her and the baby in - but separate bedrooms) loses it. BD chews every piece of scenery there is - rants and raves, shouts epithets and insults and, one of the insults concerns his art work. (He wanted to be an artist but a critic tells him he stinks - but not in so many words).

You and I have seen many similar scenes, usually in western barrooms with breakaway furniture. What goes through my mind is - it looks like they're having fun. Not so with BD. Her heart and soul are deep into the wanton destruction.

Mildred accuses him of getting off on his pictures. They are of women, naked from the waist up (censors, you know). She makes him sound like a dirty old man. She rips some valuable papers to shreds. How does Philip handle this? Maybe, not the way you would have expected.

That scene, by the way, is Davis at her 'Davis-est'. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her spot-on portrayal of sneering, jeering Mildred.

There is absolutely no humor in this movie - except - for a scene at the very, very end of the picture.

"Of Human Bondage" is a must-see if you love drama, human foibles and, of course, those BD eyes. Let 'em roll.

--- In 1982, Kim Carnes had a number one hit about those "Bette Davis Eyes." The husky-voiced singer, sounding somewhat like Rod Stewart, was highly praised by 'you-know-who.' The song was written several years earlier by Jackie deShannon, a former member of the New Christy Minstrels.

Watch the movie: Of Human Bondage —»


Dr. Christian Meets the Women 1940

Dr. Christian Meets the WomenThe good Dr. Christian has a problem on his hands. The women of the town have been turned on by the alleged charm of a Charlatan 'make you healthier and happier' visitor. He has them over-exercising, gulping diet pills, and eating seaweed and other turn-off foods. Are the foolish ladies improving? Are they losing weight? Are they healthier and happier? If the answer was 'yes' we would have a very short movie.

The 1940 entry of the quite successful series of films about the good - very good - Dr. Christian, who is all sweetness and light - is sort-of a fascinating look at weasel-y Professor Kenneth Parker, very convincingly portrayed by veteran, Rod LaRocque. He is smooth, he is dedicated to earning big bucks by convincing the ladies of the town to follow his advice. They will be so much the better for it. Unrealistically, all of those ladies are too easily led through the dark path. To re-quote Doc Shakespeare - "what fools these (women) mortals be."

To move the plot farther along, most of the ladies, including a pair of heavy-set giggling twins, take up a fair amount of screen space, literally and figuratively. Naturally, many of the susceptible females wind up sick. Just about all the ladies in town put down Dr. Christian who calls the visitor 'dangerous.' The good doctor rightfully puts down the 'make a fast buck' visitor. By the way, I always wondered about the Hollywood 'genius' who gave the doctor such an appropriate name. Religion, recognition, or both?

He tries gentility at first, then tightens up and tosses brickbats at the phony prof. Critics are not supposed to give away even a modicum of plot but, from the opening scene, when LaRocque first comes to town, you pretty much know what to expect. He is preceded by what would be called an 'advance man,' who sets things up. That would be sincere looking Frank Albertson as Bill Forrest.

Seems he quit newspaper work for his current job. When asked why he switched to a lower job, he explains, "you can't come down from newspaper work." As a retired reporter, I say -- sheesh!

It is not giving away any plot by noting that as soon as Bill steps off the train, Kitty flips, not even taking a breath. No wonder - young Albertson is handsome and smooth. Is he a faithful follower of the diet character? Yes and no. Check out the film for the answer.

The movie moves along quite nicely. The acting is satisfactory and then some. Edgar 'Slow Burn' Kennedy is Kitty's dad. He runs a sort of general store and is not too happy about his grocery-meat business going downhill. Seemingly, he sells everything the professor says not to eat.

It's not nice to tell you how it all ends, and I won't do it. I'd rather you see the movie yourself. There is absolutely nothing to complain about. It moves quickly, nicely, although the ending comes too quickly, as if the producer is running out of money.

Present day commercials usually start with comparison before-and-after pictures. The 'patients' look glum and heavy in photograph number one; smiling, happy, and slimmer in picture number two. No doubt some of the diet things work but, overall, the sales pitch is not much different. They can make you slim 'n happy in no time. How would Dr. Christian look at those commercials? With a frown, no doubt.

"Dr. Christian Meets the Women" is, of course, strictly Hersholt's picture as he very nicely shows what a sweet doc is like. And, just to illustrate how advanced medicine is - he makes house calls. Call him up, and he'll come running. And, when you call he does not put you on hold so you can listen to a bunch of numbers. Push in the right one - then you are told to leave your number and birth date. He or, usually an assistant, will call back anon. Yeah, right!

Dr. Christian is a sweet, lovable, dedicated gent - a very nice guy. He wouldn't last long in today's world but, for just over an hour you can meet him - the medical man of yesterday.

Meet him and enjoy the humanity he represents, although it may seem saccharine to some. Just one thing - he should give up those pipes. Of course, docs were representing cigarettes in days of yore. Rx - make an appointment to see the good Dr. Christian. Press the Jimbo button. You won't be put on hold.

Watch the movie: Dr. Christian Meets the Women —»


McLintock 1963

McLintockWhat's your choice? A make-you-think movie with a plot, or an action and fun-filled movie requiring little or no thought?

The latter? Then, by all means, head to McClintock - the man and the town named after him. It's a 1963 John Wayne-Maureen O'Hara movie (they made five together) that often moves at jet speed.

If you're a fan you know that in all his movies John Wayne plays John Wayne. He walks with a swagger, insults those who need insulting, and 'fists' his way through the non-stop action.

You could call this one a comedy western. There are some moments of seriousness but, seriously, that is not what you want when you call on "McClintock." The man is a macho cattle baron who champions the downtrodden, and 'trods' all over those with a mean streak.

It may not be his best outing but Wayne enthusiasts will be more than satisfied with the fisticuffs and rough-housing that are part and parcel of the actor's bag of tricks.

One thing is different. Aside from shooting a couple of pheasants, there is no gunplay in "McClintock" so, if that's your thing, go elsewhere.

It has been pointed out that the movie is a western version of Shakespeare's "Taming Of the Shrew," and the shrew that needs taming is ex-wife O'Hara. Naturally, once caught, we all know that a spanking is necessary - a lengthy, no-nonsense tail-paddling. Naturally, the tough redhead doesn't cry, but she yells - loudly. Before they get to that, he drags her screaming bloody murder down the main street. The citizens love it.

"McClintock" is wild, it is rowdy and if that's the brew you like you will have a blast.

Seems the flaming redheat brings Becky, their 17-year-old daughter to town and the fussing ensues as mom and dad constantly feud and fight. She had left him - he doesn't know why. That's one piece of plot. Another has to do with the (state) government trying to kick the Indians out of town and lock 'em up in Fort Sill. And, there is some goings-on about homesteaders. The government has not much use for them, but McC champions their cause, so he is helping the Comanche's and the homesteaders. Mr. DoGood.

Essentially, that is about it for plot, but one of the most interesting things about the movie is the cast of characters - many of whom are old Wayne buddies. The 'Wayne-iest' of course is son Patrick, definitely a chip off the old block. He and Jerry Van Dyke vie for Becky's attention. She is portrayed by Stefani Powers. The tug-of-war is between the young he man, and the foppish dude from the big city.

That gives Dick's little brother a chance to clown around and show off his weird, citified dancing skills. Becky has to choose. Duh!

The old, familiar actors and actresses have a lot to do with the fun of "McClintock." They include Chill Wills, Yvonne De Carlo (Becky's mom), Edgar Buchanan, Bruce Cabot, Strother Martin, and Gordon Jones.

Jack Kruschen portrays a Jewish store owner who is loved by almost everyone in town. Those scenes are wrought with political correctness.

Robert Lowery, hero of many '50s-'60s 'B' movies portrays the mean governor who wants to displace the Indians. His name is Cuthbert H. Humphrey, in 'honor' of an active Democrat of those years who, needless to say, was not a Wayne favorite.

Drunks run in and out of the picture - no surprise. There is a free-for-all rodeo and, there is the familiar 'fall-off-a-ladder-into a water-filled trough' scene. Smiley Burnette fans remember that.

The scene everyone is crazy about is a 15-minute romp of a very wild fistfight, conveniently atop a hill leading down to a very icky mud pit. One and all get socked and soaked. First, there is that downhill trip smack into the gooey mess. That mixture of action and fun is the movie's high point.

"McClintock is a slapstick flick and our hero handles the craziness handsomely. For a breather, there are er - 'tense' scenes of some of those wild west characters playing the thinking man's game - chess.

This is not a 'thinking man's' movie. It's just a lot of hellish fun so, put your thinking cap in your 'cap' drawer, and meet "McClintock."

McClintock -- McEnjoy.

Watch the movie: McLintock —»


'Neath Brooklyn Bridge 1942

Neath Brooklyn BridgeAll right, children, who are Billy Halop, Bobby Jordan, Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell and, mostly, Leo Gorcey?

They are the East Side Kids - they are the Bowery Boys - they are the Dead End Kids - . Every now and then the 'characters' change around but the above-mentioned are the mainstays in these series of movies that usually take place in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Obviously, the locale changed to Brooklyn in this episode, but while the title indicated a change of locale, it looks like a slew of buildings on the back lots of the movie studios that offered the crazy crews.

The 'Brooklyn' story came from Monogram, and it was an hour of mayhem (the following month it became June-hem). Leo Gorcey, of course is the 'wise guy' leader of the crew. He gives the orders and, if an order is questioned, he gives slaps in face, pairing those with rude remarks about that individual's mental capacity. (In other words, they are 'stoopid').

" 'Neath the Brooklyn Bridge" offers nothing new but, like all of the gangs' pictures it makes for a fast-moving hour of 'cuckoo'.

The plots seldom change. In this case the mean-spirited bad guys recruit a reluctant Muggs McGinnis (Gorcey) to rob some valuables from a warehouse. He is ordered to do it without getting caught. Duh!

Each gang member has their own assignment - be a lookout, talk to the cops to keep them busy and, of course, rescue 'the girl' who, in this case is cute Ann Gillis as Sylvia, caretaker of her grandpa who is incapacitated, spending his days in a wheelchair. He is, of course, lovable.

The most fascinating scene, (and this may have been copped from another movie) is fun to watch. J. Arthur Young is nicknamed 'Bright Eyes' because they are always wide and shining. Well, Muggsy (Gorcey, of course) needs some information from him. He was there when the 'baddies' plotted their evil deed but, they paid no attention to him, feeling that 'Bright Eyes' was not 'bright brained.'

The kicker is that he was listening and, when Muggsy asks him about what was going on, he answered in a clever, unique way. That's as far as I go. You will want to see what happens for yourself. I figured it out beforehand thanks to four years in the Signal Corps.

Noah Beery Jr., complete with sailor suit, is on leave and spends that precious time working with his ' "Neath the Brooklyn Bridge" buddies. It's buddies vs. baddies and, of course, there is a fist fight and, every now and then, it does look like fist connected with face. Let's just say that scene needed a little more work.

Yes, there is a murder and, obviously, a gang member looks sort-of guilty. The guys, of course, are out to show otherwise. One of the gang member is particularly interesting. Sunshine Sammy Morrison, an African-American actor is one of the 'East Side' gang members and, unlike many such performers in that era, does not shuffle around, and he talks normally minus the 'yes sah' so prevalent in those days. Kind of refreshing, and he is treated like all the other 'East Side' members.

And the cops are reasonably intelligent and don't insult or knock the gang members around.

The major part of the plot? Simple. A henchman is murdered and one of the gang is suspect. Was he really guilty?

Anyway, " 'Neath the Brooklyn Bridge" is an enjoyable place to be. The minute-or-so ending? Don't ask. I will just say that it's totally stupid.

Watch the movie: 'Neath Brooklyn Bridge —»


The San Antonio Kid - 1944

The San Antonio Kid"The San Antonio Kid." Bill Elliott, Robert Blake, Alice Fleming, Linda Stirling, Earl Hodgins, Glenn Strange, Duncan Renaldo. 1944.

One of my recent columns concerned Red Ryder so, thought I would take a look at a movie about one of his adventures. The chosen flick? "The San Antonio Kid." To set the record straight - the 'kid' is anything but - it is veteran actor Duncan Renaldo.

The movie is action-filled and centers around a pretty decent plot about goings-on in the town of Maverick (named after Garner's unc) a quiet community - quiet, that is, until oil is discovered there. As the prelude tells us, that stuff is in demand, and quickly becoming valuable.

So, Glenn Strange, in a strange 'bad guy' role as Ace Hanlon, the nasty local saloon owner, goes around buying ranch after ranch in a 'get rich quick' rich quick' scheme that will make him rich-rich-rich. Not everyone is willing to sell so, he gets his gang to shoot the stubborn folks so he can take over their land, an 'oily' scheme almost as nasty as the Exxon spill.

Anyway, our hero to the rescue. He rides into town with sidekick Happy Jack (sounds like a brand of liquor). That is Earl Hudgins and, with the duo is li'l Bobby Blake. (Two men and a little boy riding the plains. That wouldn't work nowadays).

They visit Ben Taylor's ranch and, naturally, he has a pretty daughter. (Jack Kirk and Linda Stirling, respectively). Pop is popped off by the bad guys. Red Ryder offers to buy the property, but that ass, Ace, ups the ante.

Our hero looks, well, not too nice but, soon we see why he wants to buy the land. (They break into a chorus of, - "give me land, lots of land under starry skies above)." Well, they don't - R. R. (named after a railroad crossing) is all business. He ain't no singin' cowboy.

Besides, Ryder has work to do since Ace and company are really rough. They're shooting cattle, driving them off cliffs, and drowning them. All this is implied - nothing visual. All this ruthless stuff is for greed. And, the bb (bad boss) tells his goons, "if anyone gets in your way, shoot 'em off, burn 'em off."

The dialogue is ugly - what you see onscreen is not quite that bad. There is one scene that is uncomfortable for me. Happy Jack, bless his heart, likes to read newspapers. Alice Fleming as The Duchess, the ranch caretaker, likes to cut up the papers. As a retired reporter, that hit me in the bazoom.

Incidentally, Red has to do all the work since the town is 'sheriff-less'. So, there are prolonged gunfights and, a dandy free-for-all fight in the saloon during which Beav, with his trusty bow and arrow, knocks off an overhead lamp which lands on the head of one of the bad guys.

Now, re: the movie's title. Veteran actor Duncan Renaldo is 'the kid' - a rather old 'kid.' A mean bird (a real one, the kind with wings) knocks him off his horse and he falls off a cliff. The script calls for Ryder to 'ryd' by and, with the help of his horse and a lasso, rescue him.

He meets Ace and, for a thousand or so, agrees to knock off the Ryder. You are on your own after that. Does he or doesn't he? Duh! He goes to the ranch where Ann gives him the goo-goo eyes. He is smitten, she is smitten. Why? Ryder is tall, dark, handsome, sort-of charming; The 'Kid' is past his prime, but - you know - bedfellows. (Whoops, wrong phraseology for those old westerns).

Our sneaky hero raids the Ace office and finds a pile of deeds, using them to right the wrongs.

The movie ends. That's 'oil' there is, there ain't no more.

* * * *

Take a look at this info about Duncan Renaldo. Star stories don't get any more interesting. Depending on what you read he was born in Spain, Romania, or New Jersey. He was raised in Europe and, like my parents, he was an orphan. He arrived in the U. S. after working as a stoker on a Brazilian coal ship.

He had a variety of jobs before drifting over to Republic. Herbert Yates, the studio owner, appealed to President Roosevelt, to give him full citizenship.

Eventually, in movies and on teevee he portrayed The Cisco Kid. (He tried a cooking show, "The Crisco Kid" - didn't work). During the '53-'54 season he was severely injured in a rock fall, and was hospitalized thru nine episodes. The producers had him wearing masks, disguised as a ghost, and used other gimmicks enabling them to use doubles. He recorded his lines, and close-ups were shot from a hospital bed.

Most interesting is this quote from his bio: "We've taken all our fine western lore and splashed it with criminality and barbarism. The whole idea of these adult films is a fallacy. Nowhere, did they ever shoot five or six men before breakfast. That quick draw business, too, is a fake. Nobody can shoot accurately following a quick draw. Why bring kids up on this stupid craze? Nowadays, you frequently read where some kid has shot off his kneecap or wounded a friend trying to perfect a quick draw. A gun has become a plaything."

Well said - very well said-- although some of those situations were part of his shows.

Watch the movie: The San Antonio Kid —»


Romance Rides the Range - 1936

Romance Rides the Range"Romance Rides the Range." Fred Scott, Cliff Nazarro, Marion Shilling, Buzz Barton. 1936.

A nickname for the ole grade 'B' westerns was 'horse opera." "Romance Rides the Range" is more like a horse operetta. It is the somewhat unusual story about an opera star who owns a ranch - where he rides, fights, shoots, and 'cowboys'.

One of our entries - where I write about cowboy stars - concerned Fred Scott. His life fascinated me enough to check out one of his films - the romance-range offering.

How does the movie start? Under the credits you hear some well-known classical music selections. The picture opens after Scott, as Barry Glendon, finishes his last opera performance of the season, and heads for a 'cowboy' vacation, specifically a property he owns called the Bar B Ranch - ideal for a 'B' picture.

His Italian manager (You can tell he's Italian - every word ends with the letter 'a') urges him to stay and sing some more. He tries to lure him with a juicy contract. Glendon neatly replies, "you can take a buckaroo out of the west, but you can't take the west out of the buckaroo." A li'l cowboy philosophy.

All of that calls for a song about the open range. He sings as he rides his gorgeous all-white horse, White King who, by the way, is billed as - get this - 'The Human Horse." Sheesh! Unlike Trigger, he doesn't do any tricks. He gallops well. He won a recent 'gallup' poll.

Almost as soon as he arrives, he sees a mean cat beating up a young kid. To shorten it: Man beats kid -- Glendon beats man. You can't beat that scene.

Soon afterwards, sex rears its ugly head. That's crude. There ain't no sex, and Marion Shilling is miles from being ugly. She gets a lot of close-ups and, if you like 'pretty' they are rewarding.

Who she in the movie? She is Carroll Marland - a patsy who thinks she purchased the ranch. It's a con job, and such things are still going on these days.

But, of course the Barbie Doll and the Bar B Ranch are not a parcel. Gad, someone has to come to the rescue. Who better than t.d.h. - tall, dark, handsome Barry Glendon.

She sits at the piano, hits a note or two then asks her newfound friend, "do you sing?" (If she watched this movie, she'd know). He proves he does by singing a song written for the movie, "Only You" and, I gotta add, it is a very pretty piece. (So is Marion. That's crude). It was a tad weird to see that the backup band was a small cowboy group.

It's a lovely scene, but I have a hard time picturing 1930s-era kiddies sitting through that scene. I can picture Jimbo walking up the aisle peddling popcorn. Speaking of the piano, sidekick Cliff Nazzaro, as Shorty, does his thing in a too short scene. He hits the keys and sings double talk - something he was known for in those days.

After the singin' comes the shootin'. The bad guys are after the good guys (what's new?). The end result is, one bad guy wounded, no good guy casualties.

Glendon, of course, is the head good guy - the disgustedly handsome good guy. He has a Colgate smile. I was thinking of an opera star starting a sentence with 'I reckon'. Wreckin' life at the ranch gets complicated when the mean cats implicate our hero, accusing him of doing what they done did. They conned the pretty lady into thinking he was responsible for all the brouhaha. Her brother, advertised as being sick - also believes. They fight, the kid gets shot - the doc comes - the kid recuperates nicely, thank you.

She is sick of the whole thing and leaves the ranch, taking off in her '34 convertible. He, of course, chases after her, riding his famed horse - advertised, yet, as 'The Human Horse.' Lord, I reckon.

So, they get together. All is well. Do they do the natural thing - kiss?. No, podner. I reckon that would violate the code of the west. However, they do embrace - a very tight hug. We're waiting to see where that will lead - but - some killjoy wrote 'The End' on the screen.

Do I recommend "Romance On the Range"? Hell - I mean, heck - yes. It's an exciting hour with shootin' and fightin' to keep fans of all that happy. Add to that, the personality and talent of its star. Ten stars, I give it.

Watch the movie: Romance Rides the Range —»


In Old Cheyenne - 1941

In Old Cheyenne "In Old Cheyenne." Roy Rogers, George 'Gabby' Hayes, Joan Woodbury, J. Farrell MacDonald, Sally Payne. 1941.

I don't mean to sound like a pretentious know-it-all but, too many critics are super-critical, looking for goofs. I sometimes wonder how they enjoy what they're doing. A 'for instance'. Today, I'm looking at "In Old Cheyenne," with Roy Rogers. He portrays an easterner yet, when he hits Arizona he gets involved in gun play, square dancing, etc., and that bothered a couple of these - er - writers. It bothered them and they passed their 'bothers' on to us.

Me? I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, not giving a rodent's patootie that it seems strange that an easterner can do all that stuff. I didn't watch the movie for an analysis. I wanted to see what was on the screen - and I enjoyed what was on the screen.

Critics? Sheesh. Oh, did I mention I was a critic for a major newspaper for almost half-a-century? I looked for enjoyment. I wasn't into technical nit-picking.

"In Old Cheyenne," released six days before the Pearl Harbor attack, stars a very young looking Roy Rogers and, the reason I wanted to review this pic is that he portrays Steve Blane, a reporter for a New York City newspaper - the Empire, yet. He is being sent to Cheyenne - excuse me - old Cheyenne - to investigate some dastardly goings-on involving a bad guy named Arapahoe Brown.

That would be ole Gabby - except - he is really a good guy. Fellow by the name of Sam Drummond is the real good bad guy. We first meet reporter Rogers on a choo-choo, en-route to Arizona. The villain's gang holds up the train and the scene is not heavy. There is a fair amount of good corn in this flick.

Example: The gang goes from passenger to passenger, stealing what they can. A candy salesman comes up and one of the 'dastards' wants gum drops. He gets 'em but the sales guy makes him pay a dime.

Another passenger is really Della Casey - professional name: Dolores Casino. Real name: Joan Woodbury. She sports a Spanish accent (one critic complained of its 'un-authenticity'. I thought it was funny and cute). Anyway, I've always enjoyed that actress. She and Rogers talk family. He asks if her parents are separated. "No," she says, "they're all in one piece." You had to be there.

The passengers exit the train - stopped because the 'bad guys' blew up a section of track. Then, along comes Gabby with horse and wagon and drives the two to town. (Interjection: There is a scene where he twirls a gun and he is damned proficient).

There is plenty, but plenty, of gunplay and it is interspersed with music - some square dancing (the caller is the reporter), and there is a Spanish dance and - get this - the song was written by famed pop writer, Jule Styne. The song is called "Bonita" and the Espanol dancer is Miss Woodbury.

Back to the plot. Our eastern reporter friend hooks up with the editor of the local paper who philosophically explains, "even a big story ain't a good story if you don't get to write it." Duh!

If you're looking for tense - well reporter Roy almost gets hanged - until - sharpshooter Gabby shoots the rope in half. What a guy! And when he is not a-shootin' he carries a little black kitty cat in his shirt.

He winds up in the editor's abode where abides Squeak Brown, a dandy portrayal of an adorable nut-case by Sally Payne. She spots our handsome hero and wants to know if she can keep him. "Ain't he a beauty?" she asks. Anywho, they go to a square dance and - convenience of convenience - the bad guys decided to shoot up the place. They are considerate, though - they waited for the last do-si-do.

One of the musicians, and he is on the screen for about a minute, is Spade Cooley who, later became a double for Rogers, mainly due to the fact that the two were lookalikes.

The baddies aren't finished. They shoot the editor of the local paper 'cause he was about to expose them. They only injured him - poor shots. (I had an editor once who was half shot).

So - if you like westerns, shooting sprees, fights, hard riding and all the grade-B offerings I guarantee you will enjoy "In Old Cheyenne."

* * * *

Miss Woodbury is far more interesting than many of the 'A' galstars. She was right at home "In Old Cheyenne" because she is part Indian. She spent seven of her young years being educated in a convent. Holy gee!

In this movie she portrayed Dolores Casino. Other names in other pics include Lolita (not that one) and Toto. Unlike many of her peers she enjoyed the grade-B movies because the 'A' re-takes were time consuming and boring. And, get this - when she retired she directed both light and grand opera.

Remember - her name is Joan Woodbury. She was the great niece of the founder of Woodbury Soap. Her momma was the third Rose Parade queen. Also, Miss W wrote for a Palm Springs newspaper. That's pretty historic since, in those days, women reporters were as scarce as hen's teeth.

Still more - the lovely lady was a child prodigy - a pianist - she spoke two languages - she was a prima ballerina, an artist whose works were displayed - and a photographer. I would love to have met this lady.

Watch the movie: In Old Cheyenne —»


Forbidden Music - 1936

Forbidden Music"Forbidden Music." Richard Tauber, Diana Napier, Jimmy Durante, June Clyde. 1936.

In writing movie reviews, I try to show a modicum of class but, this go-'round I am going to start my review of "Forbidden Music" - thusly: See this film, see this film, see this film, see this film, etc.

I thought it would be a pleasant hour or so - I never knew it would be so cotton-pickin' enjoyable - something I intend to watch several more times.

Now, if I tell you that the star, Richard Tauber, was second only to the great Caruso you might get the idea - gad - classical music - 'grumble-grumble'. So, right away I will tell you that if you are scared you might have to listen to some mournful music -- nothing could be further from the truth. Every song is a 'rouser' whether sung by the star or the residents of the zany kingdom he is visiting - Ruritania.

Upbeat - that's a good word to describe "Forbidden Music," formerly titled, "Land Without Music." It means that in this nutty little corner of the world - music has been outlawed and, if you think that's a far-fetched idea check my notes at the end of this review.

Tauber, hunky and handsome, portrays Mario Carlini. He falls in love with Princess Regent Maria Renata - the very lovely Diana Napier. Nothing far-fetched about that. In real life they were Mr. and Mrs.

Also in the story is Jonah J. Whistler, a reporter for a New York newspaper coming to town in a horse-and-wagon, accompanied by daughter, Sadie as portrayed by the cute June Clyde. The news guy is The Schnoz - the great Durante. He talks, she takes notes. (In my reportorial days I never had that luxury). He wants to write about the music ban and the fact that the king is selling black market instruments, smuggling them to the peasants. They are pleasant peasants - spirited and somewhat zany.

They march, they sing upbeat songs. They are a happy crew and they'll make you happy, too. Nineteenth century Ruritania was a fun place to live. Durante, in his inimitable way, describes the 'no music' edict as a 'catastastroke'.

The music was composed by Oscar Strauss, of that famed family, and the 'rousing-est' piece, performed by the townsfolk as they march, is called, "In the Sun."

The soldiers go thru town confiscating, and destroying, musical instruments. Carlini assesses the situation - the people rally 'round him and, eventually, music returns to Ruritania. Again, I say - take a chance on this happy, upbeat movie. You will enjoy it, just as I did. It is pure joy.

* * * *

If you think the idea of destroying instruments, depriving the town of its music, is far-fetched. WRONG! In our country, some Puritans banned certain musical instruments; During WW2, Israel banned the music of Richard Wagner, a notorious anti-Semite whose wife was a close friend of Herr Hitler and, on the other hand, the despotic ruler banned music by Jewish composers; In the Malian desert town of Kidal militiamen visited the home of a musician, threatening to cut off his fingers if he ever again plays the guitar; In northern Mali, a religious war has been declared on music.

An Islamic state in Libya burns musical instruments, declaring them as 'un-Islamic'; Maz Mahmud, a secular musician, wrote that "music is not something Allah likes." He notes that music can't be avoided, but the use of musical instruments should be avoided; Burma banned western musical instruments. (That's us); Of course, the Taliban 'Tali-banned' music. Musicians were forced to leave the country; In Afghanistan music is censored. The lives of professional musicians were completely disrupted - most had to go into exile; And, in the good ole USA, drums were verboten at the Grand Ole Opry. That changed when my man, Bob Wills, bought the Texas Playboys on stage - complete with a drummer.

* * * *

June Clyde was twice married to the same man - Thornton Freeland. There was a three year break between nuptials.

* * * *

Finally, and again I say - see "Forbidden Music." It is GREAT, GREAT fun with wonderful rousing music.

Watch the movie: Forbidden Music —»


Police Rookie - 1940

police RookiePolice Rookie." George Jones, Joyce Compton, Craig Reynolds, J. Farrell MacDonald, Veda Ann Borg, Mary Gordon. 1940.

Few rookies in "Police Rookie." This grade B cop caper features some of the most familiar names in the roster of 'bottom-of-the-double-feature' films and, in many cases co-starring in some biggies.

It takes an hour to figure out - who is the good guy, who is the bad guy. If you are looking for a decent story, this fills the bill; if you are looking for lotsa action - nope. Toward the end, there is a right good gun-fight, fist-fight scene and, that's when the 'raveled' plot gets unravaled.

The movie begins with a deadlocked jury declaring an obviously guilty man -- not guilty. It seems that a higher-up somewhere has been getting his way - way too often. An honest cop gets killed as he gets closer to close in on Mr. Big.

His son, Steve Hanagan, (again, this is one of those movies where almost everyone is Irish. Brogues abound) decides to become an officer for the sole purpose of finding out who killed his father. George Jones is the young man. At one point, Inspector Tim Ryan, (J. Farrell MacDonald) takes away the badge, charging incompetency.

Everybody is after Mr. Big, they just assay different modus operandi. Of course, there has to be a pretty lady involved. That would be Joyce Compton (Betty Casey) - she, of the innocent expressions. She spends some innocent time with our hero's best friend, and our hero catches them involved in an innocent 'bye-bye' kiss. His nostrils flare.

Meanwhile, through some Dick Tracy-like sleuthing he discovers some documents pointing to Uncle Jim Kelly (Sam Flint). He and an obedient henchman catch him in the act of discovery, and that's when the aforementioned fight action gets underway.
Conveniently, the best friend gets knocked off and offers an about-to-die spiel convincing one and all that our hero's girl friend is just that -- our heroes girl friend.

In the time-honored nick of time, the inspector enters the picture, and the picture ends. Our hero's badge isreturned and his anti-cop venom to the chief is obviously forgiven. So, the badge is re-pinned.

I usually veer from giving away too much plot. I want you to be surprised but, "Police Rookie" sort-of did that for me. By the way, I didn't mean to sound negative. Actually, the movie moves along at a decent pace and, you won't be too angry with yourself for staying with it.

* * * *

Toward the opening, look very quickly. The skinny court clerk is Arthur O'Connell who, of course, went on to bigger and better; the nightlub doorman's real name is Lester Dorr.

Jog your memory, and you might recall that Gordon Jones was a fairly familiar figure on the old Abbott and Costello teevee show. He had a very impressive career. "McClintock" and "Flying Tigers" were only two of his many film appearances.

Another vet of old teevee was Miss Compton, a regular on "Pete and Gladys." MacDonald began in silent films, then became a director, then returned to acting working with such big names as Frank Capra, Preston Sturges, and John Ford; Veda Ann Borg, floozy supreme, makes the most of a few minutes on-screen as a chatterbox.

The movie's original title was, "I Take This Oath." This was the very first film from the much criticized PRC Studio for whom my father worked, printing their flyers. I never said I came from a wealthy family.

Watch the movie: Police Rookie —»


Dixiana - 1930

Adventures of Kitty O'Day "Dixiana." Bebe Daniels, Everett Marshall, Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey, Bill Robinson.

It had been too many years since I'd seen this sparkling gem. "Dixiana" was a 1930 hit and, as far as I'm concerned it's also a 2016 hit. It has a dated look but, like wine or cheese it seems to have aged well. To be succinct - the dances are exciting, the singing is spot on, the comedy is wacky fun.

To be politically correct you have to learn early on that, since it takes place in a plush Southern plantation, there will be politically incorrectness but, there is nothing vicious. Entertainment-wise, the flick is an attention-getter from start to finish - and, I guarantee - the ending will surprise you. Let's just say that it's totally unexpected.

As is the movie. It does, of course, have a dated look but that will not deter you from thoroughly enjoying "Dixiana." That is the name of the film's heroine as so beautifully portrayed by Bebe Daniels. She was a top star in those days, and the longer you watch her in action, the more you will understand why she was an audience favorite.

She graced the screen from 1910 to 1955. Why not? She is button-cute, and had a voice that rivals any singing gal who graced the silver screen over the years. It's an old habit - the singer pops in for a song, the audience pops out for popcorn. This is one time that won't happen.

In spite of her name, 'Bebe' was 'top gun' on screen. For oodles of years, the major studios mixed a lot of comedy with the musical numbers, a mix that works especially well with Miss Dixiana.

The 'plot' has to do with the difficulties that arose when some uppity northerners bought themselves a Southern Plantation. That is where the 'political incorrectness' comes in. As the picture opens, we hear a chorus of slaves singing prettily. That is followed by one plantation owner bragging, "my slaves sing better than anyone around here." A friend says, "it's because they love you. You're always freeing one of them."

Needless to say, the locale is one of my favorite cities. The movie takes place, "way down yonder in New Orleans," as Louis A. often sang.

Throughout the flick there are imaginative, exciting dance numbers. There are clowns, acrobats, jazz dancers, and a couple of characters dressed like ostriches, pulling a wagon containing a giant 'ost' egg. Those gentlemen are the well-known - at that time - comedy team of Wheeler and Woolsey. They are a couple of pecans - if you get my drift. Their time on screen, which is plentiful, will have you ranging from chuckles to howling. That ostrich dance is, to say the least, different. Unlike what that they are carting about, it does not lay an egg.

So, I've taken care of the comedy, and the leading lady - and where there is a leading lady, there must be a leading man. That would be slick Everett Marshall as Carl Van Horn. And, where there is a leading man, there has to be a 'bad guy.' The two, of course, are competing for the hand of Dixiana - not to mention the rest of her. From top-of-head to tippy-toes she is 'cute' personified.

And, throughout the film there are one-liners including one gent proclaiming, "I had a wonderful dream. I dreamt I was a widower."

I noted earlier that the ole plantation was in the hands of some folks from (in hushed tones) up no'th. Gasp-gasp. To make matters even more interesting, the head knocker is a Pennsylvania Dutchman. Whoo! Thing are goin' south.

At a big party, the neighbors cavort and every one, including the extras, seem to be having a good time - er - including the madam. (The accent is on the second part of that word). There are discussions about the 'heirs' with someone proclaiming, "I've known my son since infantry." My - such sophisticated humor.

All of the 'action' is interspersed with excellent songs, excellent singers, especailly Van Horn. Things become particularly beautiful when Dixiana Caldwell gets together with Carl Van Horn. A great blend. Excuse me for saying so but, I think their duets surpass MacDonald and Eddy. Best of all, perhaps, is when voices join singing the movie's title tune.

I sang the praises of the songs sung and the singers that sang 'em, but I can't pass without mention of other excellent cast members. Jobyna Howland is a howl as Mrs. Birdie Van Horn and Ralf Harolde as Royal Montague.

To wind it up, there is a specialty number by the great Bill Robinson - dancing, climbing, jumping. If you watch the Lawrence Welk Show re-runs you will always see Arthur Duncan, always quick to acknowledge Robinson as his inspiration. Mr. Robinson's dance, on its own, was fan-damn-tastic.

"Dixiana" gets somewhat serious for just a few minutes before those dreaded words pop up on the screen: THE END. Otherwise, it features great music and great fun. See it!! That's an order.

* * * *

Bebe is a Dallas Daniels. Her list of screen credits is huuuge. And, she also sang with the Metropolitan Opera; Before taking up acting, Woolsey worked as a jockey; Bill Robinson, noted for his dance numbers with Shirley Temple, made his screen debut in "Dixiana."

Watch the movie: Dixiana —»


Tanks a Million - 1941

Adventures of Kitty O'Day'Tanks A Million." William Tracy, Joe Sawyer, James Gleason, Noah Beery Jr. 1941.

When I was a kid, I loved some of the silliest - funniest flicks ever made. There were several in a series of Army comedies hurtled on the happy public by Hal Roach. They starred William Tracy and Joe Sawyer. The former portrayed Pvt. Dorian Doubleday who, after a display of military knowledge, was quickly given sergeant's stripes. The other character, harried by the young genius, was Joe Sawyer.

"Tanks A Million" introduced them to an unsuspecting, but very happy, public - happy enough to enjoy their antics in eight movies - each one under an hour. In that short space of time they had most of us in a constant state of laughter.

They somewhat resembled "Beetle Bailey" the nemesis of the 'old sarge'. It was a perfect coupling. Doubleday, better known as Dodo, is introduced to us as a young civilian answering the most difficult questions on an intelligentsia radio program. He displayed his knowledge onthe a variety of subjects. In the Army he displayed his knowledge of everything military.

A couple days after arriving for basic training he so impresses the brass, he winds up with stripes. He is so smart, they make him a sergeant. This is, of course, fiction at its best. Naturally, Sgt. Ames (Tracy) resents this. An intelligent sergeant? I told you this scenario was fiction.

Dodo gets the opportunity to put his fellow recruits thru some military maneuvering - lots of marching, etc. - while Sawyer more or less resentfully looks on, and seethes. See the seethes. Dodo has his crew marching smartly as he puts them thru their paces.

The young man doesn't intentionally show off- it's just that he is smarter than Wikipedia (no nasty comments, please) as he recites everything from the manual of arms.

When the film starts, we see him on a radio show showing off his intelligentsia. He carries on, and on, and on until the station cuts him off in mid-sentence. Speaking of sentences, the sarge has a good one when talking about Dodo. He refers to him as, "the draft board's greatest blunder."

As for the sarge, he is so frustrated, he manages to walk into an officer or two, knocking 'em down as if delivering a Joe Louis punch.

The most fun in these movies is the back 'n forth dialogue between the two main characters. The sarge is in a constant state of frustration; Dodo is triple 'C' - calm, cool, and collected.

The whole thing is Hilarity with - see? - a capital 'H'. The two are a perfect match or, should I say, a perfect mismatch.

"Tanks A Million" - a clever title - was released two months before Pearl Harbor. The interest in things military was beginning to peak, even if the movie is - er - 'non-serious'.

As far as the plot is concerned, guys in the military loved the non-com put-downs.

The action takes place in Camp Carver. The crusty sarge and the man with a lot of crust, make a terrific pair, playing off one another. The dialogue is wild 'n funny, the facial expressions alone are worth the price of admission.

Let Roach 'bug' you. Put your brain 'at ease' and see what the Army was really like. Yeah, right.

"Tanks A Million" will keep you laughing from start to finish. I give it a 10 on an 'urge to see' scale.

Sawyer as Sgt. Ames aims to please, and Tracy as Dodo does-does keep you laughing. The dimbulbs make Abbott and Costello look absolutely brilliant.

"Tanks A Million." You'll 'tank' me for this recommendation.

Several in the cast are 'B' movie favorites, such as James Gleason, lovely Elyse Knox (no relation to 'Fort'), Frank Faylen, Dick Wessel (who has bit roles, it seems, in every other 'B' movie) Dub Taylor, another popular character actor, makes a brief appearance as a hillbilly, a role he often played.

The radio interviewer was portrayed by Knox Manning who, in real life, was -- a radio announcer.

Hard to believe but, as Jimbo points out in his notes, Tracy attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC where, of course, he learned the art of 'Dodo-ing'. Also from Jimbo, and this floored me, is the fact that the movie was nominated for an Academy Award. "Wow" Hey, Jimbo, are you sure you" weren't thinking of "Gone With the Wind"?

Watch the movie: Tanks A Million —»


Detective Kitty O'Day - 1944

Adventures of Kitty O'Day"Note: I recently penned a rave review about the adventures of Kitty O'Day. I asked O'Day expert Jimbo if there was another movie about the daffy redhead. The answer was 'yes'. It was made a year earlier.

"Detective Kitty O'Day." Jean Parker, Peter Cookson, Tim Ryan, Veda Ann Borg, Edward Gargan, Pat Gleason. 1944.

Once again, Jean Parker is a telephone operator, not for a hotel this time but for an investment firm. And, once again she listens to the conversations and, once again, she and her boyfriend get tangled up in a comedy murder mystery and, once again they drive Chief Inspector Clancy kee-razy and, once again there is an hour of wild action and silly, but funny, dialogue.

For the most part, the main characters are the same, i.e. Parker, boyfriend Peter Cookson as Johnny Jones, Tim Ryan as Clancy and, once again one of the major nuts - Edward Gargan as Police Detective Mike.

In both movies, O'Day is a poor man's detective. Her job is to drive Clancy to an early grave. Speaking of which, bodies abound and, no surprise, our heroine has all the answers as to 'who-dun-it'.

The victim is Oliver Wentworth (Edward Earle) - O'Day's boss - and she is suspected of being his 'murder-ess'. Many of the scenes are 'tried and true' beginning with the opening murder, continuing with a darkened house. O'Day and the butler wander about, each holding a candle, prompting yours truly to note that few such performers can hold a candle to her.

Seems that O'Day and Jones are supposed to see a play. As usual, she wants to solve the case, and her harried boyfriend (Cookson's first role) wants to live normally.

O'Day, of course, has the last word so, they try to solve the murder and, they try to find out what happened to her boss's important papers. Jones is frustrated because he put out $8.40 for two seats for a first-run Broadway play. (Those prices, of course, have double quadrupled since the '40s).

O'Day's boss is supposed to be on a business trip instead, he becomes a corpse. While in his darkened house a man of mystery lurks. And, the lurker has squeaky shoes.

That's about as much 'quiet' as you will get in this madcap movie. The owner of the house, Wentworth, is retired as Kitty's boss. For good reason. He is kaput. Yeah, but how? Seems he was drowned in the bathtub but, there is also a suspicious looking hangman's rope. Gargan, as Mike, has the answer. Dig this: "After they drowned him, they hung him up to dry."

His frustrated boss, Clancy, has the answer to that: "I gotta hand it to you. When you're wrong, you're 100 per cent wrong." Meanwhile, our hero and heroine are nosing around for clues. (They should look in the 'clues' closet). She poses as a maid, he as a janitor, although his outfit looks like he should be driving a locomotive.

A lot of old tricks are pulled out of the bags. For one, they are on the 20th floor, and half the performers are dashing around the ledges, as they look down at the traffic below.

Naturally, there's a lot of screaming. And, there is the age old gag of swiftly opening a locked door - Mike runs through that door, into the room and, swiftly, out of the next door. Classic timing.

If there's a ha-ha highlight, it's the wild, wild fight between the bad guys, and the cops and O'Day and her b.f. Miss Parker really goes to town in this scene. Her weapon of choice is her pocketbook. I get the idea that the director gave everybody carte blanche - hit when you can and who you can.

Are the crimes solved? But, of course and, who is the chief solver? Three guesses and the first two don't count. Oh, and wait till you see how Kitty and the b.f. are rewarded.

Before all that mayhem, the 'maid' and 'janitor' get caught nosing around for clues. He's on his knees calling out, "here kitty, kitty, here kitty, kitty."

Sophistication - forget it and, don't look for plot holes - just sit back and enjoy and, like me, you will probably wish there were more Kitty O'Day flicks.

* * * *

Pat Gleason has a fair-sized role as a cab driver. He's been seen in many, many movies. Both his dad and mom were in the Marine Corps. The Gleason family came from Gleason, Wisconsin.

Much of the fun can be credited to Tim Ryan, who portrayed Chief Inspector Clancy and, when he wasn't busy performing he was busy as the movie's screenwriter.

Veda Ann Borg, who appeared in many movies, has a minor role - on screen for about five minutes.

Watch the movie: Adventures of Kitty O'Day —»


Chu-Chin-Chow - 1934

Evel Knievel"Chu Chin Chow." George Robey, Fritz Kortner, Anna May Wong, John Garrick, Pearl Argyle, Malcolm 'Mr. Jetsam' McEachern. 1934.

It is a mix of Three Stooges nutiness, Marx Brothers craziness, Ritz Brothers weirdness, and The Bowery Boys. You get the picture. It sounds like something from an Oriental menu. It is the 'mein' course, listed as "Chu Chin Chow." (Gesundheit). It's the well-known tale of Ali Baba And the 38 Thieves. (Nancy and Sluggo deserted and moved to Brooklyn).

Their tale, of course, is quite familiar but, this time it's set to music - excellent singing and dancing, but the main courses contain a lot of nuts and corn. You can't watch this movie without engaging in continuous laughter. You don't have to be a fan of Arabian adventures to enjoy "Chu Chin Chow."

The star is George Robey who was one of Britain's funniest funnymen. He portrays Baba, mugging shamelessly, moving about like one cursed. He is generally, the chief laugh getter - a 10-plus on the laugh meter. His every movement, his every expression are priceless. You will find yourself staring at him and wondering if he is 'for real'.

I will try to control myself writing this review. I promise - no chow mein, or chop suey jokes. There is food a-plenty, though. The movie opens with a banquet scene making Henry 8 look like a rank eatin' amateur. All involved are as glutton-es as they come.

A few of the lines might be found in Milton Berle's thousand-or-so page joke books. (He compiled two of them). Take, for instance, a lacky who offers Baba a glass of - ostensibly - water. He drinks, then turns to the servant, asking, "may I have another cup - to poison the rest of me?" Another favorite gag comes during a man vs. woman scene, when one of the men rightfully declares, "even a woman can have an idea."

When they're not tossing jokes back and forth, there is plenty going on. A treat for the eyes - most of them anyway - are the troops of dancing girls, sometimes going thru routines that might make Busby Berkeley a tad jealous. All of the costumes look authentic Arabic and, if you are worried about the kiddies - forget it. This '34 pic could easily get a rating of 'G' - as in, 'gee this is a helluva lot of fun.'

Four stars to the costumer, and a like amount to the mini-operetta, kind of a low-life Gilbert and Sullivan. Wanna know about plot? Baba is a poor woodsman who discovers a secret cave, used by - right - 40 thieves. It is filled, almost floor to ceiling with gold, treasures and lottery tickets.

The palace populace want to get their dirty hands on some of it -- correction -- all of it, but our hero ain't talkin' and, as happens with so many movies, there are ways to make him talk. By the way, another crazy actor, Fritz Kortner as Abu Hasan, is a bandit pretending to be CCC.

The rich folk, of course, have a slew of slaves, most of them quite delicious looking. Some of them are tied to a big, heavy wheel, used to open the cave of riches. What's the magic phrase? Altogether now - OPEN SESAME. As the cave entrance slowly, and squeakily opens, you hear march music in the background - Sousa-like stuff.

Remember the old line - "ve haf vays to make you talk?" Well, there are a few prisoners, behind bars, and they are without cell phones but, they have their trusty carrier pigeons. (None named Walter).

The prisoners try to, and eventually do, escape, so there are battles galore. "Ben Hur" this ain't. The sword-like weapons are weird, bows and arrows enter some bodies and down go their owners. Nothing bloody. Some of the scantily clad slaves are up for grabs on the slave market. And, we are there on bargain day - two for the price of one. (Personal note: There is, of course, nothing humorous about slavery, but you can lighten up this one time. There was nothing funny about Hitler, until Charlie Chaplin made him a laughing stock).

The call to battle is a biig gong, possibly borrowed from J. Arthur Rank.

Other cast members to look for include Anna May Wong (nothing 'wong' with her). The Chinese beauty graces every scene. Another beauty is Marjanah, a servant girl. She is portrayed by - and I love this name - Pearl Argyle (named in honor of jeweled socks?). She, too is an eyeful.

Dennis Hoey is a comic deluxe, as is his - heavy set wife. She is Sidney (that's right) Fairbrother (that's right, too). She eats and eats and, when something strikes her as funny - she giggles (sort-of a tee-hee thing), and she nags-nags-nags. John Garrick as A. B.'s son, Nur-al-din Baba is an excellent singer who hits some of the lowest notes you'll ever hear - lower even than Harold Reid of The Statler Brothers.

The locale of all this nuttiness, of course, is Baghdad. In that city, crowds often gather - for whatever reason - and, honestly, the extras fill the screen. So, what happens? What about the riches? Just you watch and, watch for a really exciting scene, a poor man's ballet that begins with a bottle of water.

You get the picture. You should. It is hilarious. It is "Chu Chin Chow." Freely translated it means, 'wipe that chow off your chin, Chu.' Chu? Funny, he doesn't look 'Chu-ish.

* * * *

The original screen version had no music. Well, it did come out in 1923; Speaking of 'no music,' the American version also had zilch. Its title was "Ali Baba Nights." And, a stage version in Great Britain ran steadily from 1916 to 1920. Quite a run; Robey entertained the troops -- of World War 1; The inimitable Miss Fairbrother (and I'm not making this up) always carried a pet white rat in her blouse. (I think his name was 'Booby).

One more thing, there is a restaurant in London. Can you guess its name??

Watch the movie: Chu-Chin-Chow —»


Evel Knievel - 1971

Evel Knievel"Evel Knievel." George Hamilton, Sue Lyon, Bert Freed, Rod Cameron, Dub Taylor. 1971.

The story of the motorcycle daredevil is sure-as-hell colorful. I call it 'faction' i.e. part fact, part fiction. Most of the movie was made in Butte, Montana - the motorcyclists home town and, of course, the film begins with a quickie look at the star as a little boy, one who - surprise-surprise - is fascinated by motorcycles.

That established, we take a look at his first 'show-off'shows' jumping over some cars and, from there, of course, it builds up - more cars, some trucks. To further advertise his 'daredevilness' he brags that he never jumps over Datsuns or Volkswagens. Oh, the opening scene involving a parked car is a 'doozy.'

Soon after the movie begins, in addition to young ladies going nuts-o over him, he goes slightly nuts-o over Linda. Her real name was Krystal. They stayed hitched more than 40 years. Sue Lyon was quite good in that role. Of course, her best known role was as "Lolita." In this film he does give other girls the once-over but his passion was motorcycles, not women.

The movie shows Linda as 'numero uno' and it lets us know that one thing she wanted from E. K. was to get outta town. In other words, the beaut from Butte sought the exit sign.

Speaking of that mid-western town, a lot of the film was made downtown and, it's sort-of a kick to see cars in the street that, today, would be in an antique car show.

One thing you will notice, I guess, is that there are no 'hot' man-woman scenes. That part of the movie is as tame as the Food Lion lion. Another thing you will notice - and, no surprise here - is that there are no other motorcycles, but Harley Davidson. (I always thought that would be a good name for an actor. You know - handsome Harley Davidson in "Vroom Vroom").

Hamilton does a good job of displaying Knievel's brash, brass attitude. He is encouraged by an old-timer Charlie Kneeson. That is an old timer portraying an old timer. Rod Cameron - remember?

Throughout the movie there are allusions to the Grand Canyon and the picture ends with a look at the beautiful scenic attraction. (I recommend a trip there for your next vacation. We went with friends and had a grand Grand Canyon time). Evel constantly talks about a jump there but, obviously we don't see it since that happened three years later. If you want to see it check Evel Knievel in "Evel Knievel."

We do see him playing basketball and, he lets the world know, "I'm a master of all sports." Sport number one, of course, is motorcycling and, we see a lot of good scenes involving those races and EK's daredevil stunts. Hamilton on a motorcycle? Oh, yeah - with stuntmen handling the rough stuff. It matters not - it's still a mix of fun and excitement.

If there is such a thing as 'Motorcycle Magazine' they probably turned up their snoops at the movie but, for the fun of it, for the cinematic excitement, this flick will definitely do. Along that line, is the line from the cycle star, "I don't do stunts. I practice."

A highlight scene shows our hero motorcycling up a flight of stairs, into a ladie's dorm, and right, smack into Linda's room. She, of course, hops on and they're off. A funny line shows the older lady who is in charge of the girls calling the police and complaining that, "men are not allowed in here." I will add that the 'talky-talky' scenes are blessedly brief. Incidentally, the real name of one of the actresses in that sorority house was Jayne Melon and - no - I won't touch that with a 10-foot pole, or a 5-foot Czechoslovak.

There are scenes of some plug-uglies, motorcycle gang members, trying to give our hero a hard time. Said hero, tosses in a little bit of cycle politico by putting those characters down, announcing that they are the ones who give motorcycling a bad name. (clap-clap). Oh, and he pulls no punches, particularly citing, "Easy Rider."

As we all know, Knievel suffered more, many more, falls and injuries. According to the Guiness Book of World Records, he broke bones 35 times. His lifetime record for fractures is 433. He endured 14 operations, survived a 29 day coma and, at one point, gulped 48 pills a day to stay alive. One romanticist said, "he died in her (Krystal's, of course) arms." He was quite sick before he died in '07.

So, there must be some hospital scenes but, most of the scenes involve his many, many daredevil accomplishments. The pic, by the way, probably got a 'G' rating, which is more than can be said of Hamilton's life. By his count, he slept with 2,000 females. That's more than the population of my li'l hometown.

It occurs to me that a movie about the handsome actor would be - er - exciting: George Hamilton and a cast of 2,000 --- women, starring in "George Hamilton." It would not be a PG film. "Evel Knievel" is and, you will enjoy it - the excitement is just about non-stop.

The star was also the producer, so blame him or credit him.

* * * *

If you remember, Hamilton also portrayed Hank Williams Sr. and was put down by Hank Jr. who puts down anything-anyone he doesn't like.

* * * *

In a poll taken in Great Britain, the great Hamilton was proclaimed, the best foreign actor. Wife-y Alana, a model-actress, later married one of my fave singers, Rod Stewart.

Re: the subject matter - his name was Robert Craig Knievel. He felt the Evel nickname would be colorful. Originally, it was Evil Knievel but, in deference to church groups, the 'i' was replaced by 'e'.

Wife-y Alana, a model-actress, later married one of my fave singers, Rod Stewart. His sons had major problems - one was addicted to drugs and alcohol and, the other - well - it had to do with a bathroom stall and a girl. I go no further.

Finally, the story of Hamilton and the waitress. He looked familiar to her and she asked, "have I ever seen you before?" He said, "you might have seen me in the movies." The waitress said, "it's possible. Where do you sit?"

Watch the movie: Evel Knievel —»


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