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Danger Lights 1930

Danger LightsFor starters, let me let you know that this is 'A-number one entertainment.' There is a love story floating around but, for the most part, that's not what moviegoers wanted to see; They wanted to see 'ye olde' trains, and this movie shows them off beautifully. It is 10-star entertainment.

The flick dates back to the early '30s when those big, beautiful, noisy, smoky steam engines ran across America. The railroad scenes are so doggone impressive you will want to do what I did - turn the film back on and start all over again.

There are so many scenes that are so impressive, including the train in a swift-moving run to Chi-Town. Its lone passenger is quite sick and, naturally, no local docs have the equipment to handle his case. The odds of getting to that 'dawdling town' are not in the choo-choo's favor. The viewer can take it from there.

More excitement: The 'down 'n out' battle between two locomotives pushing against each other in a tug of war to see who can cross the line first. That has been done before but with lowly human beings.

The authentic scenes in the rail yard are massive and fascinating. I lived several miles from the old Sunnyside, Long Island yards and can testify that the look is for real. (We had the added attractions of some subway cars thrown in); The scenes of the men doing their every day jobs on the massive engines are grabbers; Any and all scenes involving the locomotive: They are what moviegoers want to see, and such scenes dominate the movie.

To deviate. Of course, there has to be a love story - and that has to involve two very different types of the male species. The men are vying for Jean Arthur's attention (and who wouldn't vy?). In one corner we have the dapper looking, nattily dressed Robert Armstrong going against the rough-looking Louis Wolheim.

He is a pal of her daddy's and all concerned just know that 'he' and 'she' will eventually become one and, just maybe - might give birth to little engineers; Wolheim, best known for his excellent role in "All Quiet On the Western Front," plays his part to the hilt. It's the old 'mean-but-with-a-heart-of-gold' syndrome.

Armstrong who, in those years, seemed to be in, at least, every other movie, is on the sidelines at first but, as you might well imagine, he becomes the main man.

As I noted - that is the plot involving human beings. Miss Arthur only shows signs of the darling girl who is later to become - and rightfully so - a box-office favorite.

Getting back to what you most want to see - the movie opens with an engine chugging away and moving swiftly in your face. It is exciting to watch and the excitement never lets up.

Trains have been a favorite topic since movies began, but "Danger Lights" is top of the list. The sights and sounds of trains coming and going are photographed wonderfully. There are documentary shots mixed with the Hollywood offerings - and it is a mix that really works.

Another scene to look for - and this had been done so many times before and after - is Mr. Armstrong getting his foot caught in locked tracks, and the train is bearing down. Hold your breath for that one.

Of course, there has to be comedy relief and Hugh Herbert, who was also the movie's dialogue director, is in and out for no particular reason.

But, do what they did in the movie - clear the tracks so that the mercy train can get to Chicago in record time. Speaking of time, the movie is just over an hour long, but the time speeds by. Let's say it goes as fast as a speeding train. (chortle- chortle).

To re-iterate - if you like train movies, you will love "Danger Lights" and, you might be surprised how wonderful and well done this movie is, considering its age. Let's face it - smoke-belching locomotives are more interesting and more fun, than are today's hip, speedy, clean counterparts.

An interesting thing is Jean Arthur's house, where she lives with poppa. It is just a few feet from the tracks and they can watch the trains go by from their own backyard.

Gotta keep the trains moving, and no train movie moves as swiftly as "Danger Lights." Watch it, and see for yourself.

Watch the movie: Danger Lights —»


Oh, Yeah? 1929

Danger LightsWill you have a good time watching, "Oh, Yeah?" Oh, yeah. First, park your brains, then click on to the movie and get ready for an hour's worth of 'nuttiness'.

The paper thin plot has to do with a couple of freight train hopping buddies, their girlfriends who have more sense than they do and, of course, a couple of baddies. Sure, you've seen all that before but the heroes and heroines of those pics were nowhere near as entertaining as folks in this movie. Our 'heroes' go through life without a care.

There are moments of 'let's get serious' which I will get to in a few paragraphs. What I want to emphasize is that this movie gives you very little to think about, but plenty to laugh about.

Most of the films similar to this take life seriously. The two stars, Robert Armstrong and James Gleason are carefree wanderers, exchanging one-liners with a Brooklyn accent. Youse guys'll get a kick listening to dem convoice - freight hoppers with a Brooklyn accent. You know: "Toity tree poiple boids sittin' in a tree, choipin and boipon." My first wife was from that borough so I know whereof I speak.

The title of this - er - epic should be, "Oh, Yeah? Oh, Yeah." The twosome end every argument exchanging 'oh, yeahs..

Movies with choo-choo's have always intrigued me. This movie? A '15' on a scale of 1 to 10, it seldom puts you in a state of hysterics but, throughout, it comes close. As they say on those aggravating teevee ads - "you have my personal guarantee."

First of all, the 1929 film (I was a whole year old when it came out) has two excellent movie favorites in the lead roles and, if you're a fan of films from that era, you might not recognize them. Naturally, they dress in clothes that look as if they came right out of a dumpster. Armstrong fans are used to seeing him nattily dressed and very serious about solving crimes and talking smoothly. Gleason enthusiasts also see their star usually neatly clad. Both of them fit their characters smoothly in this movie - and they ARE characters - r.r. bums,seemingly satisfied with their lot in life.

They come to a town where they meet two somewhat comely ladies. Our heroes are quite bashful, so the romance moves slowly. It takes forever before we get to that initial kiss. Miss Caron does everything - well, nearly everything - to get Lowery to smooch. Miss Pitts, a Hollywood character for umpteen years, has less trouble.

Naturally, there have to be 'bad guys' or there wouldn't be a story, such as it is. Without agitating you by revealing too much, I will just say it becomes a battle of nitwit wits - witless characters going against a pair of meanies. Of course, there are fist fights, the fists seldom connecting. My one complaint is that those scenes are poorly staged.

Gleason, who is also a scenario and dialogue director for this movie, adapted from a Saturday Evening Post (remember?) short story has the foursome meeting at a freight stop where the gals woik - 'scuse me - work. Right off the bat, Miss Caron is smitten with Mr. Lowery and gives him what they called in those days - googoo eyes.

Lowery, as Dude Cowan is hot to trot, but can't get up the courage to go lip-to-lip. One scene which should have led to kiss number one, shows the twosome saying 'goodnight' a couple dozen times; Gleason, as Dusty Riley, is ahead of the game.

The movie is ostensibly about freight trains, so there has to be some action on the tracks. Let's make it a fast-moving runaway freight train. The action that ensues is very well done. Coming swiftly toward the car with our heroes inside is a passenger train. Do they go boom? If they don't, how come? Is Miss Caron involved? Check the movie and find out. You will see some excellent footage of the trains speeding down the tracks. The scenes are nail-biters.

Meanwhile, there is 'discussion' about the men's dislike involving railroad timekeepers. One of our heroes is set up for the blame involving the trains.

The discussions feature lines which border from chortle to downright hilarious. They are offered jobs by a nice boss-man. They have been spending their time freight-hopping without a worry in the world, causing Gleason to complain, "it looks like we're not gettin' no vacation."

In mid-argument, Gleason scowls at his buddy, and says, "your parents should be arrested for commitin' a misdemeanor."

The humor is rude and crude and, for the most part, quite funny. The performances, from all concerned, range from lightly funny to crazy. The double plot works beautifully. See, "Oh, Yeah?" It's fun from top to bottom, with some exciting action tossed in. Is it a hoot? The answer is obvious - oh, yeah!

Watch the movie: Danger Lights —»


The Private Life of Henry VIII 1933

Danger LightsThe estimable Jimbo wrote a good-sized prelude to the movie, "The Private Life of Henry VIII," praising it to the skies and beyond, going the route of almost every critic that happily sat through this masterpiece.

The bulk of the praise was for 'bulk-y' Charles Laughton who justifiably won an Academy Award for his performance - the title role in the movie that mixes history with comedy.

As 'J' pointed out, you needn't be a history buff to enjoy this film. I'm not - and I did. Most of the enjoyment comes from watching the star 'ham it up', particularly in the many scenes showing him scarfing down his meal of turkey legs and/or mutton. He was a mutton glutton, and he happily 'gobbled' the bird.

Those several scenes lasted just long enough to get the point across: His Highness was a slob. In one scene he eats the meat and tosses the bones over his shoulders, while bemoaning the lack of decency and courtesy in his kingdom. Like Captain Bligh, he was tyrannical (although the 'Mutiny' captain was not that way in real life).

Some of the funniest scenes involve Mr. and Mrs. Charles Laughton. Elsa Lanchester sort-of steals some of those moments. (Note - also in real life, gorgeous Merle Oberon, who portrays wife number two later married director, Alexander Korda).

You may not notice it, but there is the usual stamp of approval by the Brit government. This one, in fairly small print, notes that the king's story is for adults. These days it would get a PG rating.

Said king is a combination of moods. He has a grim sense of humor, head-chopping draws happy crowds. Illicit romance brings him 'joy'. (Was she one of his ladies in waiting?). Ann of Cleve (short for Cleveland?), portrayed by the scene-stealing Lanchester, who can 'out-ham' him, shared the royal bed - BUT - seemingly they didn't - er - you know. It is said that they spent their wedding night playing cards. And, it is said that she usually won. And, it is said that she cheated.

What really ruffles the king's royal feathers are those of his subjects who dare to defy him.

His marriages are described as "failed." There are a variety of reasons which you will realize as you watch this watchable flick. He loves 'em, gets rid of them one way or the other, and it's all done with a sense of merriment. There's a term for that: gallows humor. To accent that, we watch a grinning French executioner getting his sword ready to chop off a pretty head. While that goes on, the l.i.w's - all right, ladies in waiting - discuss who will be the next bride. One of them wonders what he would look like in bed to which another 'cat' says, "you'll never know." OOooo - mean!

To sum it up - the first wife was a nice lady so she only occupies a few minutes of discussion in the movie. Wives 2 to 6 are the main characters of discussion.

Historically, it may not stick to the truth (but it does come close), but the castle, which is about the only scene seen in the movie, certainly smacks of authenticity. The period clothing looks quite authentic. The king's skinny legs and the way he sits are sort-of fascinating.

One joke I remember - he knocks on one of the castle doors and someone asks 'who's there?' He says "Henry." The clown asks 'Henry who?'

We learn about Henry and his six wives. Six? Not a record. In showbiz Mickey Rooney, Elizabeth Taylor, and Lana Turner all had eight marriages. Comedian Richard Pryor has 'em beat. He had nine spouses.

Several Biblical characters had multiple wives but, Zion Chana of India had 39 wives, marrying 10 of them in one year. It must have been leap year. For about 90 minutes your attention in this film will be on the hubby of the many wives of good, ole King Henry the Eighth.

Let us sing -- 'for he's a jolly good fellow.' His story makes a jolly good movie.

Watch the movie: The Private Life of Henry VIII —»


Cheers for Miss Bishop 1941

Danger LightsChristmas, 1941. Just before the attack at Pearl Harbor, most people were concentrating on the coming holidays. In New York City several thousand city-zens were planning on a visit to Radio City Music Hall. Their holiday shows were particularly impressive. The Rockettes, well known for their dance routines, were dancing their way into the season.

The theater itself was probably the most beautiful motion picture theater in the country. And management was noted for finding an appropriate movie, every season looking for the cream of the crop. All the major studios vied against each other to convince the movie house's powers-that-be to book one of their products.

It had to be classy, it had to be family oriented. That year they chose, "Cheers For Miss Bihop." My mother always made it a point for the two of us to go out to a nice restaurant - well, the Automat - and then head for the Music Hall

She opted for that theater again that year - I know - because, as I re-viewed the movie recently it brought back enough memories for me. I wanted to see it again so I got a 'ticket' from Jimbo and settled in - without popcorn. (Sorry, Jimbo but that stuff sticks in my teeth).

Anyway, I watched it once more and, as it neared the end I really began to choke up. I had a hankie handy for my 87-year-old tears.

When you watch the film it should affect you the same way. If it doesn't, you shouldn't have watched it in the first place.

It starred Martha Scott, and we saw her as a teenager and, before 'THE END' flashed on the screen, we saw her as a white-haired senior citizen. The make-up was extraordinary, as was her performance. And, she was surrounded by some of the best - William Gargan, Edmund Gwenn, Sterling Holloway, Sidney Blackmer, Marsha Hunt and, making her screen debut - Rosemary DeCamp.

Their lives centered around a mid-western college where Miss Bishop began as a student, and wound up as a respected teacher. The time-line was the 1880s to 1941.

"Cheers For Miss Bishop" equaled cheers for Miss Scott. The early scenes showed a classroom of students, most of whom were eager to learn. Try that on for size in this day and age. The young Miss Bishop was a charming dreamer who, 'twas said, "loves and understands books." And, try THAT on for size these days.

The film was filled with lots of sugar and syrup. The whole idea was to make the viewer sad - and, it worked, except for the jaded.

Miss B was going to New York City (home of the Music Hall) to work as a librarian but, her ole prof stepped in and convinced her to stay where she was and teach where she was taught. The ole prof was Santa Claus - well - Edmund Gwenn who portrayed the man in the red suit in "Miracle On 34th Street" - just a few blocks from the Music Hall.

So, Miss B was happy and content but, there has to be a problem. It was a romance rivalry. The man of her dreams took off with her vixen-ish cousin. They had a baby and momma died in childbirth so, who brought up the little one? Altogether now, students: "Miss Bishop."

The movie had a lot of ground to cover, and did it the easy way - quick shots of newspaper headlines covering Prohibition, the big war, the Depression, etc. etc.

Toward the end of her life, she declines an invitation to the umpteenth school reunion but, something is going on, and, naturally, she gets talked into going. What happens? Literally, cheers for Miss Bishop. The program at the school begins with a - whoa! - prayer. Hey, you can get arrested for that these days.

Then students pay tribute and, what students. One is a Nobel Peace Prize winner. There's a senator, and a famous historian among others.

Getting personal, I couldn't fit in that package. My principal, on graduation day, told my mother, and I remember this clearly: "Mrs. Roberts - he just made it by the skin of his teeth."

Back to the movie. There are a series of stories within the story - a disagreement with the new principal and, of course, they later become friends; There is Miss B driving one of those new-fangled 'motor cars,' one lady whispering, "where's the horse?"

Sterling Holloway does what he usually does - talks with a 'Svedeesh' accent, bemoaning Miss Bishop driving her car in his cared-for flower garden. For the 123rd time in his movie career he says, "yumpin yiminy."

Some of the wonderful things about the movie are the asides, the people of the town, the school, itself, and much more.

But, the main attraction is Miss Ella Bishop - and Martha Scott's beautiful portrait of that beautiful lady - no matter her age, so, "Cheers For Miss Bishop."

Watch the movie: Cheers for Miss Bishop —»


Waterfront Lady 1935

Danger Lights"Waterfront Lady," starring Ann Rutherford, Frank Albertson, J. Farrell MacDonald, Barbara Pepper, Grant Withers, Jack LaRue, Ward Bond, Smiley Burnette.

The "Waterfront Lady" never made a big splash, but 'she' keeps afloat for about an hour. It's not the greatest thing since Swiss cheese, but it will keep you happily occupied.

If you are an honest-to-God old movie buff, you will especially delight in checking out the cast of 'characters'. You will note that most of them are familiar folk, all gathered at the 'waterfront' for a story about the usual -- murder.

It is advertised as Ann Rutherford's first movie. Essentially, that is true, although she did appear in a serial. She got the starring role in this film because the actress originally chosen to portray Joan O'Brien opted for marriage instead. The lady with the lovely name of Ann Darling found her darling lolling about in the world of insurance. It helped that he was an executive.

How did Miss Rutherford step into her shoes? Sheer luck, sort-of like the Lauren Bacall story. Miss R was doing a radio show and 'this-here-now' movie producer saw her picture in the paper and - voila! Some scenes with the aforementioned Darling lady had already been shot, and the 'powers-that be' felt that Miss R resembled the banker's wife, so they put the Rutherford name on the dotted line, and put her to work. Following that flick came a host of other fairly decent roles, and she kept very busy during the '40s and '50s.

Yeah, but what about the 'waterfront' adventure? Well, Rutherford is so cotton pickin' cute she wound up in just about every scene in the adventure flick that takes place around the docks, and in a gambling club on a yacht.

She is befriended, and that is the right word for a change, by the guy who owns the sumptious boat on which the wheels and cards are located. With the exception of a murder all is right with the world on the water, except for a fight - more like a 'free-for-all' in which most of the cast of characters get 'bopped' around.

In the middle of the melee is baby-faced Frank Albertson, as Ronny who, for obvious reasons sets his cap, as they used to say, for Miss Rutherford. The romance goes back 'n forth, forth 'n back, disrupted by an accusation that Ronny did the shooting. Since the film's running time is about 60 minutes it doesn't take long to solve the 'who-done-it'. Was it Ronny? Mayhap but, as they say in this type of movie - "I ain't talkin'."

Meanwhile, a whole lot of familiar-looking faces run in and out and, of course there's a 'copper' - O'Brien who figures out what happened, and why.

Some of those involved in this low-priced Majestic movie include Barbara Pepper as Gloria 'other woman' Vance, and Grant Withers as Tod. He was involved in these 'cheapies' for many, many years; Jack LaRue slips out of his western attire to portray the appropriately named, Tom Burden; Ward Bond is Jess and you 'jess' know that familiar face. More often than not he was a resident bad guy. Did he pull the trigger? You will know some time after you put "The Waterfront Lady" on.

Absolutely, the strangest piece of casting involves Smiley Burnette - Gene Autry's not too bright sidekick. This go-'round he is an Italian - yes, I said Italian, complete with telltale mustach.

He plays the accordion and sings two self-penned songs - "Deep Dark River," and "What I Wouldn't Do." I have an article in Jimbo's line-up about spending a few hours with him, and I am pretty sure he enjoyed his brief role because he always liked to display his musical talents and, aside from 'rasping' thru some numbers when Autry was relaxing, he didn't get too many opportunities to display his musicianship.

He was only onscreen for about 10 minutes but, for his fans, that was enough time to view the 'real' Smiley.

So, all in all, if you want to spend an enjoyable 60 minutes, check out this movie. As the old Jolson song so aptly put it - 'oh, oh, oh, oh what a gal' - that waterfront lady.

Watch the movie: Waterfront Lady —»


Rogues Tavern 1936

Rogues TavernThe dog howls, and the picture is a howl. It's built along the lines of the "Thin Man" series - sharp cop, and pesky wife. The latter finds some of the necessary clues to the murder of a trio of visitors in "The Rogues Tavern."

The cast is excellent. They are some of the bright and personable people who graced the best 'B' movies of the '30s and '40s. We have the suspect(s), the murdered, the problem solvers, the hangers-on, and the 'duh' people. It's a merry mix not meant to be taken too seriously. Some of'em are dead.

Wallace Ford as Jimmy Kelly, and Barbara Pepper as Marjorie Burns are looking for a Justice of the Peace so they can get married and live happily ever after -- well, ever after, at least.

As luck, and a sharp story would have it they wind up at The Rogues Tavern. The clerk who checks them in asks Ford if he is married. "No," the detective said, "I was born this way." Thus begins the wise crack laden script." The scenery never changes. It ranges from the interior to the exterior of the tavern which really sports the name of Red Rock Tavern. I guess the producer felt that didn't have the right threatening sound, so they called it what I said above.

The first thing the moviegoer hears is a howling wind. A howling animal is next, and it even becomes a canine suspect. In a few scenes the animal is given a rough time. In reply, it wags its tail. I guess he ate the script which probably describes him as angry. He is most likely awaiting his end-of-scene Purina. It should be noted that S. W. is quite a handsome animal.

Ford, taking time out from 'detectiv-ing' to take a wife he can cleave unto gets sucked into the mystery. Who done dun it?

Is there a scene stealer? I mean besides Red Wolf (he gets bottom billing). Yep - just about every human involved, and, remember, one of them is a killer - a very vicious killer who knocked off three and, of course, is prepared to up that number.

Joan Woodbury is surely made to look guilty - sporting make-up that hides the usually pretty face. She sort-of looks like the wicked bi -- er -- witch. Some of the visitors are knocked off (there's that cheap phrase again) like clockwork - a murder an hour. Miss Pepper - Ford's intended - is a fine wise cracker-ess. (That means she's female). She delivers her lines a-la Loy.

Her intended, looking dead serious about the dead, is searching for clues. He even looks in the 'clues closet'. At first, of course, he is stymied. Meanwhile, Miss Pepper keeps trying to get his attention to let him knows she has found something important, something, as they usually say in these movies, that will crack the case wide open.

It is an hour-long film so, of course, he ignores her, eager to prove that men are brighter than women. In the mean time phone lines are cut, and lights constantly go off and on. The method for that? The li'l ole switch, of course. Sheesh - why didn't I think of that? Why didn't Erle Stanley Gardner think of that?

In most of these pictures there is - to put it politely - a none too bright character. This time, it's the janitor. Ford tells him he came to the tavern 'incognito'. The janitor's reply? "I thought you came on a bus." It's funnier on the screen.

Another character is in a wheelchair. Wife-to-be tells the gang she saw him standing up. He is pulled out of the chair, and he does stand but, certainly not with certainty.

Anyway, the detecting goes on and the tavern visitors realize that every window in the building has bars. (No, wise guys - not a place for drinks). Meanwhile, the number of murders goes up like an Otis elevator. (three). Our bright detective finds a bullet lying around and, in true Perry Mason style, he makes the statement that the dead were killed by a human. Up to now Silver Wolf seemed to be the guilty party. (I never found out if Silver Wolf was the name of the canine, or his character's name. Both, I think)

The animal is obviously not guilty. A dog-like mask was found - a poor excuse for a guilty dog to use. Just to point the finger of guilt at him, one scene shows him baring his teeth, and growling fiercely. He is an innocent animal, so the mystery thickens and, to be honest, I don't think anyone but the brightest of y'all will figure it out initially. Just to wrap up that part of the plot, the bright detective declares, "the victim was killed by humans." Yay and woof.

So, we have to find out who's guilty, right? The next line is obvious. Mr. Ford says, "all right folks, line up." He tells everyone not to leave. Again, his sweetie tries to get his attention, but he still doesn't realize that 'she' is brighter than 'he'. Things get a little confusing when one of the men declares that he is the murderer. The character shouts, "I'm the murderer. I was mad with hatred. I confessed, didn't I?" Well - yeah - but -- (Old Chinese saying I just made up): He who confesses to clime usually innocent).

Finally, just before THE END flashes on the screen is one of movie's funniest scenes.

So-o-o, if you have an hour to kill, find out who had a victim to kill. Bottom line: ___ . End of joke. The bottom line is this: The movie is interesting, and fun. I recommend - no - highly recommend visiting "The Rogues Tavern." It is time well spent. And, you don't have to 'spent' a dime, thanks to Jimbo.

Watch the movie: The Rogues Tavern —»


Leather Burners 1943

Leather BurnersWilliam Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy, or "Hoppy" is this reviewers favor-ite cowboy. The movie, "Leather Burners," is not a product of Republic, Monogram or PRC. This one comes from United Artists, an upscale studio.

There is a little less humor than most of his films but his 'nice guy' personality shines thru. He looks like somebody's favorite silver-haired grampaw.

As expected, there is a lot of action, gunplay all over the place, a nice guy, a host of bad guys, and Bobby Larson. With a name like that you know he is a juvenile lead. The town seems devoid of female citizens, but the one who rides in and out of this picture is - to put it crudely - a knockout. She has the colorful name of Ellanora Needles. (Her second cousin is Mary Pinz).

The story? Oh, you've seen it many, many times. The bad guys are trying to take over a mine, and the chief bad guy is giving the landowners a hard time, 'dis-allowing' them to ride thru his territory to let the cattle get some water. Just a few seconds after the credits we see a burning building, hear a lot of bang-bang-bang, and note that one man is injured.

Then, the movie gets into the bad guys-vs.-good guys plot. When it is established that the bad guys are doing everything possible to steer the steers away from the water hole, someone complains, "they broke my water." Love that line.

The scenery is fine - wiiide open spaces which, nowadays, is probably a Wal-Mart parking lot. The movie was made in 1943. So, what's going on? It's the old saw about the 'hero' riding into town and most of the good people in the community know him.

But, they're not thrilled with him when they find out he's going to work for the chief bad guy, the always reliable Victor Jory. So, was Hoppy really going to do that? Duh!

Conveniently, there is the usual pretty girl. But she is not interested in our Hoppy. She already has a boyfriend and a boy, little brother Bobby. The dark-haired beauty is the lovely - make that, very lovely - Sharon Longstreet, and I can't help but wonder why she wasn't seen before.

Andy Clyde has been seen before - plenty of times and, as you can imagine, he is the sidekick - and a darned good one. In one scene he gets into a fight with several of the 'baddies' and what makes the scene so much fun is the fisticuffs. Ole, skinny Andy, as California Carlson really gets into it and, I have to say this: I've seen fistfights galore, but this one is very realistic. It looks like every pow, bam, sock connects. And, it's great fun to watch Andy deliver a few healthy knockouts. I only wish the fight would have lasted longer.

Some of the action takes place in an abandoned mine (they are plentiful in these movies) and, naturally, while a lotta folks are in there, an old gent tears it to pieces.

He is another cowboy movie screen presence - George Givot. He portrays - love this name - Sam Bucktoe. He is thought to be dead but he shows up in a cozy little room he put together inside the mine - which used to be his. He has a little phonograph in that room, and an old 78, of course. Is he playing, "You Are My Sunshine," or "Ride, Cowboy, Ride?" Heck no. He has a symphony going - out of place, but what the hey.

Speaking of music, Mr. Clyde chirps a few lines from, "Jingle, Jangle, Jingle?" Remember that? Top of the Hit Parade when you were a little fella or gal.

A future cowboy - bad guy - good guy - leading man is listed, but I'll be hornswaggled (I've been seeing too many cowboy movies) if it ain't Robert Mitchum. If you're a sharp-eyed galoot you might see him. Me? I looked hard, but I couldn't eye him. His name is in the credits.

Essentially, that's about it. If you like a good, exciting, action-filled cowboy movie with a decent plot, etc. I recommend - no, highly recommend - "Leather Burners." Podner, it's a durn good Hoppy flick.

The preceding preview was torn from the pages of the New York Times. (Yeah, right). They think 'Hoppy' is a cowboy frog.

Watch the movie: Leather Burners —»


Kid Dynamite 1943

Kid Dynamite"Kid Dynamite," an East Side Kids movie with Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Bobby Jordan, Gabriel Dell, Pamela Blake, Minerva Urecal, Mike Riley's Orchestra.

The East Side Kids are up to their usual antics but, since Monogram made this film in 1943, you can bet there is a serious side to the goings-on. There is the headline: "Peaceful Czech Town Wiped Out By Nazis." This gives Gorcey, as Muggs, the opportunity to feel bad when he listens to a refugee from that country talk about our freedoms.

An important scene is the boxing ring. Mugs, you see, was supposed to box for the East Siders against the West Side Kids, but he is kidnapped by some unscrupulous gamblers (are there such things as 'scrupulous gamblers?) who figured that Mugs was hot stuff with the big gloves, and bound to win. So, they drive him around the Big Apple and put their greenbacks on his opponent. If all goes according to plan they should win a hunk-a hunk-a dough. (Apologies to Elvis).

In desperation they put the gloves on a very reluctant Danny Lyons (Gabriel Dell). He's a lover, not a fighter - but he's game and, unbelievable as it seems, he trounces his West Side opponent. That knocks for a loop the gamblers' plan to win a pot load of dough.

The boxing scene by the way is quite convincing. Well, Danny wins and Mugs gets sore. You can take it from there.

There is bad blood between nastier-than-usual Mugs and sweet as honey Danny, who, incidentally, is the only handsome East Side Kid. At one serious point, Mugs asks his 'ma' what makes him so mean. Like a good mama, she assures him he really ain't.
Mugs is also ticked because his very cute sister, Ivy McGinnis, (so many of the characters in these melodramas seem to be Irish. So was half my neighborhood - O'Brien and McCarthy to name two) loves Danny and vice-versa. She is portrayed by ultra-cute Pamela Blake. Oh - real life imitates art. Those two were husband and wife, off screen as well as on.

The un-scrubbed scrubby clubhouse is still the gang's meeting place. Later, the Eastern gang sort-of participates in a weird dance contest. Again, Mugs is the odds-on favorite. Does he win? Does his arch enemy win? Well, no and yes.

Of course, you can't have a nice, crazy picture like this without the inevitable clowning around by Huntz Hall as Glimpy McGleavey. He is a natural nutcase who mugs more than Mugs. He wrinkles his face, moves about crazily, talks as funny as he acts, reminding us of a Disney character - Dopey. They could be second cousins, although Gimpy carries on more interesting conversations.

That dance contest should have been lengthened. Mugs is at his wildest. Gimpy is even wilder as he dances (?) about with a partner much taller than he. She is Kay Marvis who, offscreen was, for a while one of the Mrs. Gorcey's. Later, she became Mrs. Groucho Marx. Gorcey to Groucho. I would love to see her biography.

A favorite scene is when Glimpy tells his friends that Mugs once told Joe Louis where to get off. "Sure, the Glimp said, "they was both ridin' the same streetcar."

There are some musical moments during the dance contest which also should have been lengthened. The band is billed as Mike Riley's Orchestra. A little correction here. They were better known as Mike Riley and his Round and Round Boys. If you're old enough you should remember their giant-sized hit, "The Music Goes 'Round and 'Round."

The band's singer-dancer, a wild one, was Marion Miller, my first wife's brother. Later, if I remember my ex's family history, she was a semi-regular on Jackie Gleason's show. Her husband was a theatrical agent.

The "Kid Dynamite" ending is a happy one. Danny is sharing popcorn with his 'goil' and takes an engagement ring out of the bag. Earlier, she declared to her mother - "oh, ma, I really love him." So you know she will accept. Muggs describes the scene: "Oh, look, Romeo and Cleopatra."

Patriotism enters the picture again. Earlier Danny joined the Army. Now, Mugs is in the Navy, and Glimpy is wearing a uniform of undetermined origin - probably a Marine. Oh, Ivy is a nurse, outranking them all. There is a bit of truth here. Jordan did join the Army.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the judge, portrayed by veteran Minerva Urecal. She is in the picture for about three minutes showing a wonderful stern, no-nonsense face. As Glimpy puts it - "oh, look, a lady judge." Come to think about it that would have been a rarity in '43.
A couple more mentions: Bobby Stone portrays Stoney Stone. Honest; Also, Sunshine Sammy was a regular member of the gang. The young African-American is treated as an equal - no preaching needed; Snub Pollard of silent film days has a very small role; and what is Mugs' real name? Ethelbert or, as they would pronounce it - Et-illboit.

A 'preachment' from yours truly. If you, like millions of others, enjoy the antics of these movies, don't miss this one. "Kid Dynamite" is dynamite. Dinah 'might' not enjoy it, but you will.

Watch the movie: Kid Dynamite —»


Heartaches - 1947

Heartaches"Heartaches." Sheila Ryan, Edward Norris, Chill Wills, Kenneth Farrell, featuring Lash LaRue, Keefe Brasselle, Terry Moore. 1947.

Recently, I profiled Lash LaRue, then went looking for one of his movies. I came up with "Heartaches," in which he has a minor role. Bottom line - I watched it anyway and found myself watching a thoroughly enjoyable musical murder mystery about a handsome hunk who looks good on screen, but sings bad. He mouths the words which are actually sung by a 'dubber'. Chill Wills as 'Bogie' Mann is the 'dubber, and Kenneth Farrell as Vic Morton is the 'dubbee.' (Think "Singin' In the Rain" - Reynolds and Hagen).

Both men play their parts to a 't' with Wills, of course, far removed from the type of character he usually played. He is marvelous as the piano playing crooner, and Morton is grade-A as the handsome 'supposed' vocalist who relies on 'lip sync.' The 'sync-er' is sunk when the secret gets out - the secret being that he can't sing a note. He can't sing any notes.

The leading lady in the picture(s) is very lovely Sheila Ryan as the very lovely Toni Wentworth. She is in love with a newspaper reporter. As a retired 'one-of-those' I can attest to the fact that it's a common problem. (Yeah - right). Wanna see my list?

As you might expect, wise cracks abound - sort-of a poor man's Loy-Powell. The fly in the ointment is that the reporter, Jimmy McDonald, is actually Miss Ryan's hubby-to-be, and the reluctant object of the on-screen singer's attention -- on screen, only. The sharp newspaper guy uncovers the ruse which results in death threats and-- death, itself. The count is three.

There is a photograph in which the 'would be singer' is seen as a trumpeter in a band. We all know that trumpeters usually can't croon - with the exception of Vaughn Monroe.

There are several pretty good songs throughout the picture, the most important, of course, is the title tune, sung as a ballad rather than the 'snapper' we're used to. (For more about the song, see below). Song and pic go back to 1947 so, I must have played it while yapping for the Armed Forces Radio Service in Nome.

In 1981 there was a movie with the same title, which has nothing to do with anything. Our version begins with a tour of the major Hollywood studios, and of L. A. This movie was not from a major studio. 'twas a Mascot movie. In this movie, the 'star' is so popular he is offered a contract to appear on stage and, on stage, doing comedy, the dubbing trick wouldn't work. (Again - see "Singin' In the Rain.")

He shuns radio work noting, "I prefer to make an honest living." (Thanks a lot," signed, 'former radio guy - moi)'. And, there is the scene that describes reporters as, "having no scruples." Well, this is a work of fiction. Shoot, in my reporterial days I was up to my ankles in scruples.

I mentioned LaRue - well - he plays a gunsel. Keefe Braselle, the star of "The Eddie Cantor Story" is on screen in this epic, just long enough to pull a trigger. I spent a day with him and I'm here to say - he was a fun-fun character; Terry Moore is on screen briefly in a scene as the object of the 'star's - croonin'.

The movie is thoroughly enjoyable from beginning to end and, wait till you see 'The End'. It's 'coo-coo'.

* * * *

As promised, here is some info on "Heartaches" - the song. The biig hit, of course, was the Ted Weems version featuring Elmo Tanner who whistled his way thru a couple of choruses. Altogether, there were about 50 recordings of the song which Weems cut in 1933 and re-released in 1947. The 'Weemsie' arrangement spent 16 weeks atop Billboard Magazine's hit chart, peaking at number one. Other numero uno hits by the Weems ork were "Somebody Stole My Gal" and "The Man From the South." The bandleader was the man from Pennsylvania." My personal favorite by that band was, "Oh, Monah."

The Harry James arrangement peaked at number seven. Altogether, there were about 50 arrangements. Artists included The Marcels, a parody by Allen Sherman which included - honest - eating a teevee set. (Please, no jokes about tossing your cookies). The song was also recorded by Patsy Cline, Jimmy Dorsey, Chet Atkins, Pat Boone, The Ames Brothers, Connie Francis, Barbara Eden, Eddy Howard, Frankie Laine, Billy Vaugn, Guy Lombardo etc., etc., etc. Surprisingly, the Lombardo version was lame.

Lyricist Al Hoffman also penned "Allegheny Moon," "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes," "Hawaiian Wedding Song," "Mairzy Doats," "Papa Loves Mambo." The music is courtesy John Klenner who is also credited with "Smoke Dreams," and "Just Friends."

As for Mr. Weems, he played violin and trombone. A sort-of claim to fame - he played at the inaugural for Pres. Warren Harding. The band disbanded at the start of World War 2 and, for good reason. Every member joined the Merchant Marine.
Watch the movie: Heartaches —»


Carnival of Crime - 1962

Buried Alive"Carnival Of Crime." Jean-Pierre Aumont, Alex Talton, Toni Carrero. 1962

The good news is that the performers in the French flick, "Carnival Of Crime," all speak-a English and/or their voices are dubbed, so sub-titles aren't necessary. The star, Jean-Pierre-Aumont speaks 'American' clearly and distinctly, so he didn't need any help. But, the picture does - in spades.

One critic rightly noted that the plot is weak. I watched it on a 'weak-day' which, with this movie would have been any of the seven days. Pick one.

The movie begins with a couple of buildings being blown to smithereens. (That is several miles from Rio de Janeiro). Those blasts were almost the highlights of the film which has to do with an unfaithful wife vs. a faithful secretary. Another character is a soused ladies' man. And, there is a mom-in-law who spends her time with a gigolo.

The above is the movie's - er - plot. The hero is an architect, Frank Lloyd Wrong. He is on a time schedule - he has to get a couple of his buildings ready by a certain date. A nemesis does all he can to nip that schedule in the bud - thus the blown buildings. The film opens with a couple of bad guys dynamiting the architect's efforts. They divide their time between being s.o.b.'s and/or arguing with each other.

On the plus side - all the ladies involved are quite pretty, Aumont as usual is a fine performer. I must give ten stars to the soundtrack which switches from flamenco to jazz. If you just want some good music, you will enjoy that soundtrack. Some of it is Django Reinhardt-like. Also worthwhile is the French German Shepherd. (Do you have to pee? Oui (wee).

The story switches between Rio and Brasilia. The movie was produced by the misnamed, Crown Jewels which, 'tis said, was America's oldest independent film company.

Enough, already, Roberts. Jimbo has billions (a slight exaggeration) of good movies in the hopper. (No, not Hedda) - so there is no dearth of really good stuff from which to choose. If you want to watch "Carnival Of Crime" (the first movie to use that title), invite someone you dislike to join you for a joint gagging session.

* * * *

I'm reading "Das Boot," penned by Lothar Gunther Buchheim, who commanded a German submarine during WW2. It's a tough, but fascinating read and, I got into it, because I had the movie. Recently, Fox showed a movie about American sub-mariners, "Crash Dive." The star was Tyrone Power who, unlike some of his peers was a hero in reel and real life. He enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 42. He was too old for combat flying, so he volunteered to pilot cargo planes, a task that would get him into active combat zones. Those who worked with him praised Power for his abilities and for the way he got along with fellow Marines; James Stewart, likewise, led a squadron of Liberators, and was involved in more than 20 missions. John Wayne, on the other hand --- .

Speaking of that world war - with all of our technology, this wouldn't make news in this day and age but during the second World War the British news agency, Reuters, was often able to beat their rivals to the punch with headlines. How? They used carrier pigeons. My Pigeon was 'Walter'.

Finally, this sage advice from Paul White, an early CBS radio reporter. He said that every point in a broadcast story had to be repeated. "You have to tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you've told them." A solid - Amen!
Watch the movie: Carnival of Crime —»


Hoodlum Girls - 1944

Buried Alive"Hoodlum Girls." Joy Reese, Warren Burr, Kay Morley, Michael Owen, Rod Rodgers. 1944.

Here's the 'nutty' plot in a nutshell. Two sisters - one, a living example of sweetness and light -- the other, well, exactly the opposite. Jeez, where have we seen that plot before??

The attractive young ladies, like everyone in the cast were unknowns, both before and after the movie was made and, for seemingly obvious reasons -- most of the cast can be politely described as 'non-actors' who probably couldn't get roles in grade-Z movies.

Hold on, though. The music and entertainment acts are outstanding. More about that later. The movie, "Hoodlum Girls" was originally called, "Youth Aflame," and was produced by - honestly - Social Service Pictures of Hollywood. As the son of a social service supervisor, I protest.

The film's posters were more exciting than the movie, itself. They read, "Sex Crazed Youth On a Wild Rampage," and they claim the flick is "thrill mad - without shame..wanton and dangerous." Whew! I guess that enticed a portion of the male population. In small print, it notes that it is double-featured with "Last Date," starring Dick York. Ah, at last - a familiar name.

The unfamiliar names in "Hoodlum Girls" are Joy Reese as Katy White - she's the goody-good girl -- and Kay Morley as Laura White, the rebellious chick. Michael Owen and Rod Rodgers are the male leads. The story opens and closes with our heroine in a hospital bed, looking totally unhappy. Why not? She just took a bullet.

A couple detectives are working on the case and, one is - dare I say it? - a female. This was many moons ago so someone noted that police work "is a man's job." Not any more, of course. Women are now acknowledged to have beauty and brains.

As in so many others and, in many cases as in real life, the 'baddie' owns a nightclub, and that's where all the fine acts perform. In the meantime the girl's dad, a gun loving bank guard, fusses at both daughters.

Most of the action, including some pretty decent fisticuffs, takes place there. His bartender, by the way, turns out to be a sort-of Crosbyish crooner. A 'stole' stole is presented to the nice daughter. Its point of origination is, to put it mildly, a big question mark - as in '?'.

The bad guy is after the good girl - the good girl is after the good guy - the bad girl is after the bad guy, and said bad guy gives her the brush. Unnerstan'? Incidentally, just so you'll know who's who - the bad girl is dressed in black.

The action takes place in - where else? - Detroit which, to this day has a reputation for questionable 'goings-on'. In all fairness, though, it should be noted that the number one crime city these days is my parents' hometown - Baltimore. I have no argument there, having gone through some unhappy mess involving relatives with whom, as a youngster, I was very close.

What has that got to do with the movie, you may well ask. I may well answer - nothing. I just had to get it off my chest. The movie, itself, in spite of its amateurish look, is not bad at all and, I can practically guarantee, it will keep you interested.

The story also concerns efforts to open a club for young people where they can jive and drink milk. Mr. Bad Guy sees that as a threat to his business, so he does everything to thwart. The good people have an ally, Amy Clark, the policewoman mentioned above. She is portrayed, with sweetness and light, by Mary Arden.

Will good conquer bad? Well, duh! As I noted, the story isn't half bad but, see this picture for the outstanding entertainers.

* * * *

In his summation, Jimbo tells you a little about one of the jitterbuggers, Johnny Duncan, who went on to have a quite decent career after "Hoodlum Girls." I will have a bio on Karl Kiffe, the knockout drummer. There is a novelty act, 'One Good Turn Deserves Another," with a dance-acrobatic routine that is outstanding - exciting. Lindsay Bourquin, Laverne Thompson, and Betty Phares fare very, very well.

* * * *

"Hoodlum Girls" is concerned with attempts to open a club for 'delinquent' young people who want/need to let off steam, to keep out of trouble, to switch their energy from whatever it is that got them into trouble --- to a place where they could let off steam by listeningto good swing music, and by dancing up a storm or two.

There was a similar story on the other side of the globe - specifically in Nazi Germany where such music was verboten so, it had to be an underground activity. What irked the heil Hitler-ites was that the swastika-less young people were playing and/or dancing to the music of Duke Ellington, a Negro -- Django Reinhardt, a gypsy and, of course, Benny Goodman, not a good man in Nazi eyes.

It began in Hamburg in '39 and, for the most part, involved young people from fairly well off families. The government, of course, was busy organizing the Hitler Youth, but those German youth were disinterested. In 1941 over 300 of them were arrested, sent back to school under Nazi supervision, and were made to cut their hair. Some were deported to concentration camps.

In retaliation, the swingsters distributed government propaganda. In 1942, it became unbearable as far as the German leaders were concerned and some of the ringleaders of the 'swing' movement were sent to concentration camps, were beaten, and forced to participate in forced labor operations. Heinrich Himmler was in charge of everything. The crackdown soon resulted in the raiding of clubs.

In 1993 a film was made about the "Swing Kids," which featured excellent music and some really wonderful jitterbugging scenes. It illustrated the young peoples' desire to switch from 'Heil Hitler' to 'Swing Heil." Ja whol!

A final note. "Hoodlum Girls" features a fairly lengthy drum solo by Karl Kiffe - a knockout performance by a fairly unknown musician, a most interesting gentleman. I will have a separate and, I believe, story that will interest anyone who loves swing music. Check it out —». Jimbo will tell you where to go. Er - that doesn't sound quite nice.

Watch the movie: Hoodlum Girls —»


Crime, Inc. - 1945

Buried Alive "Crime Inc." Leo Carrillo, Tom Neal, Martha Tilton, Lionel Atwill, Grant Mitchell, Sheldon Leonard, Don Beddoe, George Chandler. 1945.

To begin with - "Crime Inc." is quite good. How can that be? It's from PRC. Sheesh. Well, it is good, with some of the best known '40s-50s performers tangled in a 'keep you guessin' plot', the end of which may well surprise you.

There are murders a-plenty, and a fair amount of good music by Martha Tilton, one of the swing era's best known vocalists. She can act, too. The songs she offers are five on a one to ten scale. In one scene, she sings and takes pictures of the nightclub customers, a gimmick which has been done before.

The murder-music mystery works well and, in mid-song the first two murders are committed. "The Sound Of Music' mixes with the sound of murder as her chriping is interruped by the film's first pair of killers at work. When the bang-bang is finished, the 'Liltin' Miss Tilton goes back to her vocals.

Plot-wise, there is Big Jim Riley, a newspaper crime reporter who is determined to do his part to end the spread of crime in their community. He even gets 'over-involved' by working undercover. My reportorial days were never that exciting.

Incidentally, the title sort-of tells the tale. The chief 'bad guys' are the board of directors who are determined to take over their city. Who's to stop them? A crusading journalist, of course. That is Big Jim Riley, as portrayed by Tom Neal who, in those days, was all over the screen, often in 'meanie' roles.

And, there is a Tony Marlow, who owns the nightclub where Tilton vocalizes. And, here is some fascinating piece of casting. Leo Carrillo has that role, and he speaks perfect English. Moviegoers are more familiar with him as the Latin-accented Pancho, sidekick to the'Cisco Kid'.

Anyway, Mr. Marlowe, who is one of the mob's kingpins, is kidnapped by mobster, Bugs Kelly, (not Bugsy Siegel) to express his opposition to the mob. Here is where sex rears its head. Our crusading journalist, and the club vocalist, fall in love. She is Kelly's sis and keeps busy telling him mob secrets.

The mob? It is much like stories we see in papers and on the tube everyday. Several of the 'bad guys' disguise themselves as 'good guys' and it can throw viewers off the track - but it makes for an interesting story. One quite good scene involves a road that is supposed to be closed. I will say no more.

So, there are more murders. And, there is a grand jury, and there are witnesses who must be eliminated. Also, similar to today's headlines, there is a secret hidden device - listening and taking pictures. How update can you get?

Honestly, there are no dull moments - even when one of my old hangouts - Coney Island - becomes the center of attention for a spell. There is a fascinating scene involving a wax museum there. An electric chair is involved - grim-o.

So, if you like - dare I say it? It is a well acted, fascinating story. You will definitely enjoy your moments with "Crime Inc."

* * * *

In his liner notes, the 'popcorn person' goes into Miss Tilton's background - but - the queen of big band singers was Helen Forrest, who was born in Atlantic City, yet. She worked with Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Harry James (some - er - love interest there faded when he wed Betty Grable. That was one of showbiz's most successful pairings. Miss Forrest admits that her feelings do not subside).

Her father died when she was a baby. Her mom married someone who was disliked by Helen and her three brothers. What a guy. He turned their home into a brothel, with his wife as 'storekeeper'. As if that wasn't enough, dear, ole stepdad, tried to rape her when she was 14. She fought him off, with the help of a knife. She then went to live with a piano teacher who recognized her talent.

After that, thank heaven, it was uphill. Her first job was on a station I listened to in my growin' up years (the reason I became a disc jockey) - WNEW in NYC. Then, it was into night clubs, performing in D. C. for two years. Artie Shaw heard her - hired her. She replaced Billie Holiday. The two had vocalized jointly. H. F. threatened to quit because Miss H, thanks to the color of her skin, had not been treated fairly by behind-the-scene big shots.

When Shaw quit the biz, Goodman picked Forrest up and, the years with the King Of Swing, were, to say the least, quite unhappy. To be blunt - she did not like the man. Despised is a better description. Helen exited to, as she put it, "avoid a nervous breakdown."

She auditioned for James and was hired, thanks to band acclimation. Her most popular songs came with that orchestra - "I Had the Craziest Dream," and "I Don't Want To Walk Without You." In 1942 and 1943, in a poll conducted by the respectable Downbeat Magazine, she was voted 'the best female vocalist in the U. S.' And, that covers a lot of territory.

Later, she enjoyed a respectable solo career which included a radio show starring herself and Dick Haymes. They recorded 18 duets -10 reaching top 10. Their biggest hit was a beaut- "Long Ago And Far Away."

She was often referred to as "The Voice Of the Big Bands."

Watch the movie: Crime, Inc. —»


Buried Alive - 1939

Buried Alive"Buried Alive." Beverly Roberts, Robert Wilcox, Paul McVey, Ted Osborne.

When I saw who starred in this movie, I just had to see it. Beverly Roberts was wife number one. (At this point, Jimbo chokes on his popcorn). I will explain after the review in the 'notes' department. (At this point, a lotta readers skip right down there).

Remember 'Fibber McGee and Molly?" When he did something a little crazy, she would say, "t'aint bad McGee." I will say that about this movie, a not-at-all-bad cheapie from Producers Releasing Corp., then known simply as Producers Pictures Corporation.

It has to do with a prisoner who is en-route to 'that room' with an electric chair, a punishment which, for many, was an entertainment. So many people wanted to watch, including an obnoxious newspaperman. As a retired 'un-obnoxious' newspaperman I would have called in sick on that day.

The movie takes a stand - a strong stand, against capital punishment and takes an unabashed view of newspapers in general. Sheesh! What eventually happens? That's for me to know and for you to find out.

One of the main characters is interesting and adds to the 'anti-capital punishment' stand taken by the film. George Pembroke is Ernie Matthews, the man who makes $250 every time he pulls the switch. "I send 'em on their way," he explains. The man who is about to be seated has found guilty of murdering three women.

Once the switch is pulled he, of course, is jolted into eternity. Matthews looks at it philosophically. "I throw the switch. It's all in a day's work." Does he feel guilty? Hell, yes - he gets drunk after every 'switch pull'.

Beverly Roberts is the prison nurse and everyone who comes in contact with her falls in love. Well, she is a beaut and has a sweet attitude. The prison doc loves her and, honestly, so does the prison chaplain.

An important character in the film is Johnny Martin, a prison trustee who is up for parole in two years. Robert Wilcox plays the Mr. Nice Guy who gets into a fight when he sees the executioner being beaten up by obnoxious reporter. And, as any obnoxious reporter would do he gets even by writing an article putting Johnny down so, not only is he in trouble for fighting - believe it or not - he winds up in that little room near the electric chair.

His execution is about to go forward. It leads to what I have to say is an interesting climax so, I reiterate, this is not a bad movie at all. The story is quite good - the action never lags. Recommend - recommend.

* * * *

Now - about Beverly Roberts. She was my first wife ----- well ----- not the actress, but the former Beverly Ciora. They do have onething in common. Both came from Brooklyn. There - wasn't that exciting information? The star was a blonde, mine had dark hair. She was, as they say in Germany - zoftig. Her brother, Elliott, used to call her Blubberly. Unfair - she was - er - zoftig, not overweight.

A character in the movie, called Riley, was portrayed by Ben Alexander who later became Jack Webb's first "Dragnet" partner. I had the pleasure of interviewing him during my stint with KWWL-TV in Waterloo, IA. He was touring with Fred Waring and - both of them - were as nice and pleasant as could be.

Also in the cast, in small roles, were Wheeler Oakman who later worked in the Flash Gordon serial, and Dave O'Brien who starred in those MGM comedy shorts, "Pete Smith Specialties."

Watch the movie: Buried Alive —»


Confessions of a Vice-Baron - 1943

Confessions of a Vice-Baron"Confessions Of A Vice Baron." Willy Castello. 1943.

This is not a typical movie review, because "Confessions Of A Vice Baron" is far removed from being a typical motion picture. It has to do with the life of Mafia pioneer, Lucky Luciano.

Several things put this film in the 'very unusual' category. First, and foremost, there are movies within the movie - scenes from several films incorporated into the story of Sing Sing inmate #1452. The movie opens with a seemingly contrite gang boss confessing some of his sins to the prison's warden.

To tell the story we see scenes from "Race Suicide," "Smashing the Vice Trust," "Mad Youth," Wages Of Sin," and "The Pace That Kills."

Also unusual is a nude scene that comes as a surprise and leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination. 'She' alternates between being scantily clad and completely 'unclad'. That scene alone prevented the flick from being shown in about 95 per cent of the movie houses. A similar scene, although not quite as raw, features some suggestive dancing by two belly dancers of those days.

Most of the subject matter is typical of gangster movies of the era but, in this case, they are dealt with more frankly. Luciano was involved in vice rackets, abortion, white slavery, baby selling, kidnapping, charming women and some male suckers out of their savings and, of course, murder. Girls as young as 13 were among the targets. Pimps, madams, bordellos - he owned them all. Most of them wound up in Fat Pearl's Brothel.

You've probably seen gangster movies galore but, you can bet you've never seen it like this. "Confessions Of A Vice Baron" begins pleasantly enough. Luciano is scheduled, shortly, for a seat in the electric chair. First, though, he does as the movie title suggests, and adds warnings about the dangers of going for fast, easy money.

He looks and sounds sincere in his repentance as he tells one and all that greed is stupid. The once hardened, cynical, heartless gangster is, of course, an Italian but, in the movie he is well portrayed by a Dutch actor, Willy Castello, who has been seen in other gangster flicks.

There is a lot of concentration on the women in his life. He pretends to marry some of them and/or when he gets tired of them he sells them into white slavery.

At one time he drives off with a woman taking her, "for a good, long ride." She won't work for him so he leaves her for a couple of days without food or water. Other un-cooperative females get - those refusing to go into white slavery - get 'worked over' by some of Luciano's goons. Some of the women are picked off college campuses.

"Nothing can stop me," he brags at one point. And, remember, the story is told via clips from other movies about the feared gangster. Something did stop him - the dedication of two district attorneys - Selmer Jackson, and Thomas Dewey. The latter later became governor of New York.

Needless to say, but I will say it anyway, the movie is extremely graphic. Unlike many such films, it does not glamorize 'gangsterism'. It will keep you enthralled -- and disgusted.

* * * *

Charles 'Lucky' Luciano powerful? While in prison, he provided the Navy with contacts in Sicily to help Allied invasion planners. His information helped to guide Allied forces to key Nazi command centers in Sicily, the city of his birth.

The gangster's real name was Lercara Friddi. In the movie he is called Lucky Lombardo. He was born Nov. 11, 1896 and died Jan.26, 1962 in Naples. His crime career began at the tender age of 10 when he became involved in smuggling, shoplifting, and extortion.

Castello, the Dutch actor who portrays the Luciano character, was also the voice of -- Popeye. In today's movie, Luciano was referred to as Lucky Lombardo.

Watch the movie: Confessions of a Vice-Baron —»


Moonstone - 1934

The Cowboy Millionaire "The Moonstone." David Manners, Phyllis Barry, Gustav von Seyffertitz, Jameson Thomas, Elspeth Dudgeon.

I'll be blunt. "The Moonstone" is a gem -- the picture, ain't. It's based on an old Victorian novel, presumably the firest detective story in the English language so, from that point of view, the story is sort-of fascinating.

The tale takes place in an old mansion - and nowhere else. The camera stays put on the premises. The plot has to do with the theft - sorta - of a valuable gem stolen from India. There is the not unexpected cast of characters, most of them under some degree of suspicion, and it takes place - yep - on a dark and stormy night.

Oh, and of course the lights go out and, in a manner of speaking, so does the moonstone, brought to the house by Franklin Blake (David Manners). For 'safekeeping' the daughter of the house, Anne Verinder (Phyllis Barry) wears it around her neck, in plain view of several questionable characters. The expected happens, some lowlife snatches it off Miss V's neck. Later, it's found under a table and, still later, she goes to bed and, for further safekeeping, she puts it under her pillow. Of course, when she awakens - poof! - it's gone.

Is there a safe in the house? Nope. (People - that's why they call it a safe). What's left to do? 'Calling Scotland Yard - Calling Scotland Yard.' A low-key detective quietly grills one and all. It must be found because the lord of the manor is going broke, and sale of the gem would get him back on its feet. I know - the gem was stolen - how could he legitimately sell it? Er - !

One mystery in this mystery is why Miss Verinder seems so indifferent about the fate of the gem. Of course, all's well that ends well, and, to quote Gomer Pyle - "surprise, surprise" - the mystery is solved.

The most interesting thing about "The Moonstone" are some of the characters in the cast of -- . Recently, in a review of "The Cowboy Millionaire," I penned a few days before, I went ga-ga over Miss Barry. In this story she has little to do, exuming her charm only briefly; David Manners, as her lover, is a familiar face - more about him at the end of this epic review.

John Davidson (no, not the singer) portrays a man from India (the turban is a give-away). He portrays the guest from that country with a name straight from Calcutta - Yandoo. Oh, he claims to be a convert to Christianity. That do make it nice. The scene stealer is Elspeth Dudgeon as the housekeeper, Betteredge. Better watch Betteredge.

"The Moonstone" runs for about an hour and, during that time, it will keep you at least semi-interested. Give it a shot - it won't hurt you.

* * * *

David Manners was the young hero of the original "Dracula." Get this - he earned $2,000 a week for that historic horror movie. Bela Lugosi, who did all the work, only got $500 a week. Mr. Manners, 'tis said, was a distant relative of Princess Diana. Back to Drac. He said he never saw that movie, does not want to see it, and if anyone tries to foist it on him, he will turn that misguided individual around. One more thing - dig his real name: Rauff de Ryther Daun Acklom, of the Nova Scotia - uh - Ackloms.

Earlier, when I wrote about Miss Barry I gushed about her looks and personality exhibited so wonderfully in "The Millionaire Cowboy." Unfortunately, in this movie, the last of four in which she appeared, it doesn't work. The actress-dancer, initially billed as Phyllis Du Barry, initially worked in an Australian cabaret. She died of an overdose of barbiturates.

Miss Dudgeon played a man in, "The Old Dark House" and a ghoul in something called, "Shh! The Octopus." I would have loved to see that one.

If you can catch it somewhere, "The Moonstone" came back to life in 1997. The story was presented on the old, esteemed television series, "Robert Montgomery Presents."

Watch the movie: Moonstone —»


Cowboy Millionaire - 1935

The Cowboy MillionaireRecently, for Pop Corn, I penned a bio of cowboy star, George O'Brien so, I figured, why not review one of his pics. The title, "Cowboy Millionaire" intrigued me and, lemme tell you, it was one helluva terrific movie. See it. You have my personal guarantee you will love it.

I have to toss in some words about the leading lady. Most of those in the old 'B' westerns are cute - lovely - but, excuse my crudity, Evalyn Bostock is 'drop dead gorgeous'. Unlike 99% percent of the cowboy movies, we get to see this miss poolside - in a bathing suit. Er - she is well endowed and, as far as her acting is concerned, she is excellent.

I won't go into O'Brien too much - you can find out about this fascinating gent in my profile. He is tall, dark, handsome, athletic, charming, etc. In short (no, he ain't short) he lights up the screen.

"Cowboy Millionaire" has a decent plot - one, well used. Bob Walker (O'Brien) owns a mine and, eventually he finds out it isn't worth thousands - it's worth millions.

A greasy Brit finds out about it and attempts to buy it from co-owner, Willy Persimmon Bates. That's the always reliable Edgar Buchanan. He's the sidekick and, in this case, he's dumber than Gabby. The g.b. (greasy Brit) tries to talk 'Persimmon' into selling the mine for $20,000 - a mere pittance. (How mere is a pittance, anyway).

Hadley Thornton (Stephen Chase) came into town with Miss Pamela. When the first get to the area they are held up - sort-of. Seems the hotel arranges such goings-on to impress the 'iggerant' visitors. They try to get the passengers out of the wagon but, the lady is stubborn and refuses. So, the sparks don't fly. Then there are some darn funny scenes between hero and heroine involving 'un-togetherness'.

She, of course, can't stomach him - is becoming smitten and, with the help of his horse, Mike, continues to pursue her (and she is well worth pursuing).

She thinks he's a no-goodnik and, eventually, heads back home to jolly old England. Darned if he doesn't pursue him. We see pictures of airplanes, ships, and trains to convince us that he will travel 'round the world to catch up with her.

Some of the action takes place in England (it really is or, the studio had one helluva expensive back lot). By this time, you have figured out that "The Cowboy Millionaire" is quite removed from the standard westerns. No gunplay, for one. There is a fight but, sad to say, it's not too convincing.

There is a scene in a body of water that is as much fun as any similar scene in 'A' movies. He and she wrestle in the wet, she loses a shoe and limps away.

The by-play between he and she is just wonderful or, as Mr. Gibson might put it - it's a hoot. Speaking of which, a lot credit for some good scenes goes to Maude Allen portraying the girl's aunt - Maude Allen. (That is not one of my mistakes - that's how the program is listed.

One of my favorite scenes is when our hero finds out that his mine is worth millions. He runs around, jumps up and down, yowl, and yells like a "Price Is Right" contestant.

So-o-o, he loves her, and vice-versa. And, the ending is the biggest surprise of all. I don't mean to give it away but, it kind of floored me. The lovers actually kiss - not just a friendly peck - I'm talking lip-to-lip lingering. Jeez, I thought to myself - he gets paid for that? I would have donated my services.

Anyway, I highly - very highly - recommend "The Cowboy Millionaire." It's exciting, it's fun, it's different. Obey me - SEE IT!!

Watch the movie: Cowboy Millionaire —»


Springtime in the Sierras - 1947

Springtime in the Sierras "Springtime In the Sierras." Roy Rogers, Jane Frazee, Andy Devine, Stephanie Bachelor, Roy Barcroft, Sons Of the Pioneers. 1947.

I'm telling you, up front, "Springtime In the Sierras" is one the best 'B' westerns ever to come down the trail - podner. Lots of fisticuffs (fightin' to you), a hassle of hard riding, gunplay galore, touches of humor, the best cowboy music and, in a manner of speaking, a showpiece for 'the milk of human kindness.'

It starts right off with the title song, heard as Roy and his 'Sons' (Of the Pioneers) lope along. They are riding into town and, as usual, the town has some wrongs that need 'a-rightin'.

There is a mean, mean gang of 'evildoers' slaughtering game and wildlife - poachers - who take the sport out of traditional hunting - shooting anything with four legs, often leaving the wounded animal to die. They don't kill for food, they kill for money, shipping the results of their misdeeds up north - where - presumably - no questions are asked.

The movie doesn't skirt around the issue. What these professional hunters do is evil and disgusting and, you can bet your bottom dollar (or the top one, even) that Roy Rogers is gonna right those wrongs - but - not before there's a lot of what Betty Hutton used to sing about - 'feudin', fussin', and 'a-fightin'.

he bastards' (telling it like it is) weapons of choice include high-powered rifles, silencers, telescopic gun sights - nothing sporting. If you are an animal lover, there is one scene particularly hard to watch - a severely injured little deer, left to die, has to be put out of its misery.

When the law catches up with the lowlifes the judge (Milton Kibbee), gives them plenty of 'what-for'. He calls them 'racketeer hunters' and, for good measure describes them as 'most contemptible.' (In this era of light sentencing, that spiel was refreshing).

Now, let's talk about the excellent cast. First of all, it's Roy vs. Roy. The good Roy is, of course, Rogers. The bad Roy is, of course, Mr. Barcroft who spent about 30 years playing the meanest of the mean. But, in this pic, he is second in command. The head of the gang is a female Bachelor - Stephanie B, as Jean Loring, who need not take a back seat to any of the 'A' movie femme fatales. She is chilling.

Of course, there is a female fight scene between Bachelor and Jane Frazee (who made beaucoup movies - western and non - in those days). She even kills a friend of Rogers. Just before pulling the trigger (no, not the horse) she lets him know, "this is going to hurt a little bit." The chick has an evil sense of humor.

She gets her 'come upppance' in the wrestling match with the sweet Jane Frazee, with the sweet name of Taffy Baker. (I tried baking taffy. Messy!)

Their 'wrestling' match is a dandy hair-puller; On the other side of the fence is the Roy-Roy fight. It takes place in a large freezer where the 'baddies' keep their ill-gotten gains before shipping them out.

It's a hot fight, in a cold place and - honestly - our hero loses and winds up tied up. How does he get out? Ah-h -- that's for you to find out. I will say - the method is unique. Until then, he shares space with hanging meat, prompting one of the bad guys (with an evil sense of humor) to say, "we got him on ice." To comfort hero Roy, evil Roy notes that, "freezing is an easy way to die."

Some of the horse chase scenes are some of the best you will see in a 'B'. Watch how Rogers rides forward while shooting backward.

And, of course, there is music and, it's so-o-o good. Rogers sings and yodels, some of the lead is taken by Bob Nolan. He has a crisp, distinctive voice. The songs are good. They even go way-the-heck back for the old chestnut about "Seeing Nellie Home." Another excellent song is about 'me'. It's called, "When I Get Old And Gray."

A fun song features the 'Sons' with gravelly-voiced Andy Devine, who runs the local photo shop. They sing a country novelty, "Imagine Me."

To repeat what I said up front: "Springtime In the Sierras" is a must-see for the avid western flick fan - Rogers at his best.

* * * *

I noted that Roy Barcroft spent over 30 years 'villain-ing'. Offscreen, he was everybody's pal. He joined the Army when he was 15 - World War One - was wounded in France and, later, re-joined when he was the right age. He talked about one of his personal appearances: He said a little boy, who obviously saw one Barcroft movie too many, kicked him. Barcroft described that incident as, "the finest compliment anyone could have given me."

* * * *

Milton Kibbee, who played the judge, was the brother of Guy Kibbee, the more successful of the brothers. Busy? Milton appeared in 365 features; Guy in 107. In 18 films, they shared appearances. Guy was born in El Paso, had two wives and seven children; Milton was born in Santa Fe, and had one wife and two children.

* * * *

I talked about Jean Loring's talent as an evil lady. Well, real life almost paralleled that. In 1946, the former model married a Vegas businessman, Cornelius Hurley. Five years later he was investigated by the Kefauver Crime Committee. He was linked to notorious syndicate mobsters Moe Sedway, Morris Rosen and, the infamous Bugsy Siegel.

* * * *

Other seasonal movies: "Springtime In the Rockies," "Springtime In Paris," "Springtime For Hitler," and, of course, "Spring Time." For a slight variation there's the Astraire-Rogers flick, "Swing Time."

Watch the movie: Springtime in the Sierras —»


His Royal Highness - 1932

His Royal Highness"His Royal Highness." George Wallace, Byrl Walkley, Frank Tarrant, Donald Warren, Lou Vernon, Marshall Crosby. 1932.

This may be sacrilege but, Aussie, George Wallace, is funnier than Costello, Lewis, Curly, Larry, and Moe. His movie about, "His Royal Highness" is hilarious and clever.

Up front, let me say - don't worry about a hard-to-understand Australian accent. Everybody's speech is crystal clear, and just about everything they do ranges between extrememly funny and downright hilarious.

George Wallace, surrounded by an all-white cast, can look pop-eyed, he rolls his eyes back 'n forth, forth 'n back. He sings nonsense songs and has a fine voice for chirping. He does a downright crazy but extremely clever tap dance. When he's not walking about, he takes some great pratfalls. When it comes to music/comedy, he does it all, and does better'n anyone.

Please - take my word for it. If you want a fun-fun-filled hour, watch "His Royal Highness." The title has to do with him getting beaned on his bean - waking up as the King of Betonia, a happy kingdom filled with almonds, pecans, and other nuts.

Wallace, with his sad-sack appearance, dominates the screen. Not only that, he wrote the story, and co-wrote some of the excellent songs. As Jimbo pointed out in his notes, Hollywood wanted him but, he wanted to stay home, in The Land Down Under.

There are so many scenes to look for, beginning with one that centers around, "when the snow is falling." Soon afterwards, he goes into one of his extremely clever songs - "My Girl's Got It."

He discusses being, "a hail fellow all wet," when he meant, "a hail fellow well met." He talks about life on the farm - another one of his hilarious monologues. Oh, and listen for, "I'm the Queen Of Spain."

He slaughter's the King's, and almost everyone else's English. When told he has a valet, he misunderstands - thinking he has a galley.

There is so much more - a chorus of stunning early Aussie dancing girls with a poor man's Busby Berkeley routine. (That's Berkeley, not Berkey). There are other dancing girls - sort-of -- a chorus of - er - pleasingly plump ballerinas.

Wallace, noted as one of the greatest 'pratfallers' is one hilarious king. Watch as His Royal Highness, sitting on his royal hiney, challenges his lackeys to a crazy poker game. The king has five kings.

Above all, closely watch the crazy star. He is one funny Aussie - a lot more fun than Mel Gibson. Before, and after he is king he is Tommy Dodds. He is identified by a couple of stuffy Betonians as heir to the Betonia throne-ia, since he has a scratch on his neck. Don't ask. Toward the end we find out the real truth behind that unreal scar.

He is not a nasty king and when he hears that some poor woman is headed for the guillotine, he nixes that explaining that she would have no place to put her beads.

If Jimbo has the good sense God gave him, he will seek out some George Wallace movies. Until then - I am on bended knees (making it tough to use the computer) urging you, begging you - watch "His Royal Highness." Like me - you will want to watch it more than once. To emphasize -- IT IS HILARIOUS.

* * * *

"His Royal Highness" was produced and directed by F. W. Thring, a good-sized name in down under moviedom in the '30s and '40s. He began his 'showbiz' life as a conjurer and, when he was 'outconjured' he became a bootmaker. On the more serious side, he made a film about the Great Barrier Reef. Also, he was one of his country's pioneer radio broadcasters.

Watch the movie: His Royal Highness —»


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