The Winning of Barbara Worth
Henry King

This is a well-paced drama featuring strong visuals.  The prologue, with so few titles, leaves an indelible impression of the vast southwest on all the subsequent action.

The first encounter between William Holmes (Ronald Colman) and Barbara Worth (Vilma Banky) is nearly wordless, but lovely, lingering and believable.  The sequence is long enough and establishes such rapport between them that we can believe in love at first sight.

The flood is finely paced, well-photographed and, again, believable  —  as a result of creative  special effects.  (Them was the days.)

Colman and Banky are excellent.  She creates such a credible Woman of the Western Desert  —  SPOILER ALERT  —  that her acceptance of life in the East in the coda comes as a disappointment.

As Abe Lee a young Gary Cooper is okay  —  boyishly handsome and tall, tall in the saddle.

screenplay by Frances Marion from the novel by Harold Bell Wright,
photography by George Barnes


Another quotation from Italo Calvino:  I haven’t said it yet, though I felt it would be understood, that for me the cinema meant American cinema, the Hollywood production of the time.  ‘My’ period goes pretty much from Lives of a Bengal Lancer, with Gary Cooper, and Mutiny on the Bounty, with Charles Laughton and Clark Gable, up to the death of Jean Harlow…”  “The American cinema as it was then was composed of a gallery of actors’ faces unparalleled either before or after…making of Marlene Dietrich not so much an immediate object of desire but desire itself.”

AND MORE:  “Clark Gable represented a sort of brutality leavened with boastful swagger, Gary Cooper was cold blood filtered through irony; for those who counted on overcoming obstacles with a mixture of humour and savoir faire,  there was the aplomb of William :Powell and the discretion of Franchot Tone; for the introvert who masters his shyness there was James Stewart, while Spencer Tracy was the model of the just, open-minded man who knows how to do things with his hands; and we were even given a rare example of the intellectual hero in Leslie Howard.”  (“A Cinema-Goer’s Autobiography” in The Road to San Giovanni by Italo Calvino.  New York, Pantheon Books, 1993.)

COMING SOON FROM RICK’S FLICKS to that screen nearest you:

Best Books on Film


The Wonder of Jude Law

NEXT FRIDAY POST January 18, 2019

Until then,
See you AT the movies in THE NEW YEAR,



Turner Classic Movies’ Star of the Month for June is LESLIE HOWARD.  Consult TCM’s “Now Playing” calendar online for titles, dates and times,

You will want to view Ginevra Di Verduno’s Leslie Howard blog (  for a splendid gallery of photographs which, in themselves, display the great star’s versatility  —  the Englishman who became one of Hollywood’s brightest stars in the 30s and was twice an Academy Award nominee. My readers who know Howard well but only as Vivien Leigh’s Ashley have a treat in store.  (See also Rick’s Flicks 4/25/12.)

Special Bonus.  At 4:30 A.M. on Tuesday June 19 TCM will show a documentary about the actor whose life and work were cut short by an untimely death, The Man Who Gave a Damn.

Leslie Howard in his Hollywood heyday

Recommended from the Howard canon by Rick’s Flicks:

BERKELEY SQUARE (1933, directed by Frank Lloyd).  The famous play, still a play, but featuring an outstanding Howard in one of his  two Academy Award nominations.

SECRETS (1933, directed by Frank Borzage).  Howard on the American frontier?  With Mary Pickford in her last film demonstrating that America’s Sweetheart was also a great actress.

IT’S LOVE I’M AFTER (1937, directed by Archie Mayo).  A romantic comedy.  Howard’s co-stars are Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland.

THE 49th PARALLEL (1941, directed by MICHAEL POWELL).  A suspenseful World War ll thriller.  Howard appears with Anton Walbrook and Laurence Olivier.




NEXT REGULAR POST Wednesday June 20

Until then,
See you before the TCM screen,
See you at the movies,


Leslie Howard in The Petrified Forest (courtesy Verduno)

Leslie Howard in The Petrified Forest

Howard in his prime (courtesy Verduno)

Howard in his prime (courtesy Di Verduno)

Leslie Howard in his Hollywood heyday

Leslie Howard in his Hollywood heyday (courtesy Di Verduno)

During his fabulous decade in Hollywood Leslie Howard received two Academy Award nominations.  His first was for the leading role in Berkeley Square, the part he made his own on stage and screen.  The second nomination came in 1938, the year before he would appear as Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind  —  a nomination for his performance as Henry Higgins in the British film Pygmalion,a role for which he was eminently suitable and one which he played to the hilt.  As excellent as Wendy Hiller and everyone else are,  Pygmalion is Howard’s picture  —  as Of Human Bondage is his despite the fact that these days it tends to be discussed only in reference to Bette Davis.

Viewing Pygmalion for the first time in several years, I am aghast at how slow a start it takes, and how belabored some of the Shavian wit occasionally sounds.  This is a play, and no amount of opening up, no amount of montage-ing by the writing and direction and editing can disguise that this is a play, though contemporary (and some present-day) reviews seem so untroubled by this that I suspect I may owe the film yet another look.

But once these fine actors go to work, everything picks up, and the camera persistently catches an array of subtleties in the Howard face.  Most amazing of all, for a 1938 British film, is the richness of sexual dynamism In Howard’s portrayal.  As he begins to respond to Wendy Hiller’s growing interest and flirtatiousness, his eyes give us surprising erotic messages for a film of this vintage.

And speaking of its vintage:  Pygmalion was released the year before Clark Gable made a legendary exit in Gone with the Wind.  In Pygmalion Leslie Howard says damn four times.

In addition to his damns, Howard offers us another of his instances of seeming born to play the part.  He handles the Shavian lines like the professional he is, the Englishman he is  —  and solid actor and shining star.

Anthony Asquith & Leslie Howard

Rick’s Flicks is grateful to Ginevra Di Verduno for permission to use photographs featured on her blog.  If you are not familiar with her INAFFERRABILE LESLIE HOWARD, you have a treat ahead of you. The blog is picture-filled with a wide range of portraits, on- and off-screen; it features history and interviews and memoirs; and embraces the latest in Howard scholarship.


Until then,
See you at the movies,


Rick’s Journal     –  MY FILM CAREER


(This is a revision and expansion of a blog I posted 9/26/14.)

The town where I grew up boasted a Roxy.



In my movie childhood  —  which chimes with all my childhood because my life has been lived at the movies  —  one of our downtown theaters, the Roxy, often showed on Saturdays what their ads called reissues.  Was the rest of the world calling them re-releases?  Or was everyone saying reissues then?

There were eight movie theaters downtown within a five-block area, seven of them on the same street, three of them in a row on the same block, right next to each other.  All of them, on their signs and their marquees and in their ads, used the British spelling theatre.  The later and  eighth house, on a side street, was called the Temple, and it would eventually become my temple because it showed older movies almost exclusively.

Occasionally the management interspersed an Adults Only documentary shot on location featuring barely clad tribes for the titillation (pun intended) of my budding adolescent urges and surges.  But the standard fare was thirties/forties Hollywood.  And I ate it up.

I saw It Happened One Night there.  And Mr. Smith and Mr. DeedsScarfaceThe Public Enemy and Little Caesar (a double bill!).  Jezebel.  And I recall a lone British film, called in America The Invaders (English title The 49th Parallel).  I was trying to see  —  and it wasn’t easy then or there  —  as many Leslie Howard films as I could.  He was special to me because he had been Vivien Leigh’s Ashley.  (The Invaders featured Laurence Olivier and Anton Walbrook, too.)

The Florida Theatre was downtown’s showplace.  Three stories.  Three balconies.  Three lobbies.  Even a Colored Entrance sign over a door on the side street.  The Florida was the site of my first movie.  According to my mother, the witch in Snow White so frightened me that I claimed to be sick and had to be taken to the rest room.  And that reminds me that at the Florida there were also three men’s rooms and in one of them I learned about what the Boy Scout manual used to call self-pollution, learned about it through an incredible exhibitionist demonstration about which one of my tender years in that era neither complained nor sued.

The Florida would later be where I first saw The Yearling and where my teen loins first lusted after Jennifer Jones as Pearl Chavez in Duel in the Sun.

In the next block from the Florida were those three-in-a-row theaters; a regal block:  the Palace, the Empress and the Imperial.    The Palace was a first-run house, usually for programmers and sometimes for double features.  All these theaters had but a single screen, of course, showing just one film or, at most, two.  The Palace was where I would see and fall for the Andrews Sisters (cf. Rick’s Flicks 3/24/12 and 2/1/13).  And it was where my brother would take me for my first view of The Wizard of Oz.  In those days a theater ran a film continuously  —  no breaks, no bringing up of the lights.  And like most people  —  except for my father who always found out when a movie started and and would never see one except from its beginning  —  we just walked into a movie at any convenient time.  And my brother and I entered the land of Oz as Judy Garland, scouting apples, found the Tinman’s rusted foot.  She was, from my first moment, never only Dorothy.  She was JudyGarlandasDorothy.  Older brother Joe and I were seldom friends.  There would come a time when we were  near sworn enemies.  But he gave me The Wizard of Oz, and I must be ever grateful to him for that.

I have just remembered that the Palace also offered vaudeville  —  vaudeville in its last days and on its last legs.  A double feature AND a stage show.  Magicians.  My first singing Alaskan princess (probably from the Bronx, had I known).   My first strippers.  Stand-up comics with raunchy jokes.  I started out at the Palace in my grade school years, but you can be sure I understood the jokes.  I still remember one of them.

VivienLeigh1948And while the Palace was a first-run house, it showed Gone with the Wind after its initial release at the Florida a block away.  So, it was at the Palace that I first saw a preview of the Wind and felt crushed that the trailer was all drawings and paintings.  No advanced live footage of the Wind in those days.  I had about a year to go before I would fall in love, once and forever, with Vivien Leigh.

The Empress and the Imperial featured second runs, the Empress often opening with what had closed at the Florida the previous day.  It was at the Empress that I first saw Gone with the Wind two days in succession.  I had already seen it in two neighborhood theaters, as they were then called.  Then I saw it on a Saturday and a Sunday at the Empress.  My mother was going to go with me on Sunday, but when my Dad drove us past the theater, we saw a two-block line.  My mother changed her mind; but they dropped me off, and I waited in that line to see my Vivien Leigh.  In those days our city, with its navy base, and our theaters were filled with sailors.  I remember a gob in the men’s room at the end of the movie that Sunday saying to everyone there, “If that movie had lasted five more minutes, I’d have pissed all over myself and all over the theater.”

One of the most exciting aspects of Gone with the Wind was its length  —  unusual then.  (At the time I did not know about Italy’s Cabiria or France’s La Roue or any other Gance or the trials  and tribulations of Greed.)  I was captured by the very idea of the length of Gone with the Wind.  I remember being angry when I had first learned about the length of the 1959 Ben-Hur.  William Wyler or not, who did Ben-Hur think it was?  Soon there would be a slew of lengthy blockbusters as studios  —  they were still trying to exist, then, in the old way  —  sought to make films, often of inflated length, that would consume all of an evening.  When you got home from your movie it was too late , in those days, to settle into television.

The last of the theaters to be built downtown, the St. Johns, was a studio theater.  It was Warner owned and showed Warner films only and was open, of course, seven days a week all day.  That’s how many films a studio turned out in those immediate postwar days.  I remember a flitty friend from school days describing the theater as “too severe,”  something he must have heard his mother say.  But the St. Johns  was unusual, to be sure.  Tomato red walls in the lobby.  No decorations on those walls.  I visited this severe place less often than I visited the other theaters I’ve fondly named and remembered.  Was I already reacting unconsciously to what would become a definite adult perception?  —  that Warner Brothers movies were filled with unlikable characters who talked too fast.

Once more unto the Roxy and its reissues.  I can still see a poster outside the Roxy Theatre, Ann Sheridan sprawled across a tabletop in Navy Blues.  I never did get to see the movie.  It became one of those movies that you somehow always miss.  It would have already shown at the other downtown theaters, and the Roxy was its last stop on the way out of downtown.  The Roxy was the place to see things before they got away.  But my mother wouldn’t let me go see Navy Blues that Saturday.  I called home to ask.  It would have been my fourth movie that day.  A single feature at the Florida, followed by a double bill at the Imperial, with Krystal hamburgers in between.  She drew the line at a fourth movie because, without older brother Joe, I would be getting home alone after dark.

I was sometimes, though, allowed two double features, in fact often.  And I  saw everything I wanted to.  I can’t remember ever being advised, as a child, against a movie  —  except that she spoke against Duel in the Sun which I was seeing weekly, following it from theater to theater.  I was in high school then, hormones a-rage.  My father exhibited no interest in what I saw.  When I was smaller my parents  —  I realize, now, always happy to have me out of the house  —  would drop me off at a theater and come back for me afterwards.  Sometimes I would be left at one theater in the afternoon and picked up at another one in the evening.

Before the Temple had reopened and been sanctified, my Roxy periodically had films from the past.  How did a grade school kid get hung up on older films?  I lived for the “Current Week,” a feature of the Saturday evening paper.  All theaters listed their programs for the coming seven days.  My brother never dived for his sports pages with more thrill than I lunged for the “Current Week.”  It contained the programs not just for those eight theaters concentrated in the holy five-block downtown area but for all the neighborhood second-, third- and fourth-run houses as well.

In my earliest discovery of the “Current Week,” I had no idea of the meaning of the word current.  I don’t know how I even knew its pronunciation.  In my life at the time it meant my movie week.  A poet’s heart leaps.  My stomach did when I would reach the Roxy  towards the end of the alphabetical list of theaters in the “Current Week” and find, in parenthesis after the title of next Saturday’s movie, the word reissue.   The Roxy changed its program four times each week.  They offered one movie on Sunday and Monday, a different one on Tuesday and Wednesday, yet another on Thursday and Friday and, finally, one which ran for one day on Saturday.  I deliberately read through the theaters in order, saving the Roxy till last where it naturally stood until the St. Johns was added.  The Roxy’s add for Saturday would read TODAY ONLY.  Saturday was reissue day  in a week when they were showing a reissue.  Oh, and the ad in the paper on Saturday would contain, under the title, in parenthesis, the word reissue.

I am still unable to answer my own rhetorical question.  I don’t know why I was so attracted to what was not new and preferred the Roxy’s Saturday programs and those reissues at the Temple.  Some of it may have been my mother’s telling me about her own moviegoing days as a youngster.  I knew about Rudolph Valentino and Clara Bow and Mary Miles Minter and Ramon Novarro and Doug and Charlie and the man who would become my beloved Buster  —  I knew about them long before I had the opportunity to see them.  But until that chance came, I had my Roxy and my Saturdays there.

I remember Too Hot to Handle.  I went to the movie already liking Clark Gable and Myrna Loy because my parents enjoyed them so much.  And Red Dust.  My parents loved Jean Harlow, too, though I confess that at the time she never looked real to me.  I also saw Algiers at the Roxy.  Mom and Dad had Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow, but I discovered Hedy Hedy OneLamarr myself.  There was Tugboat Annie, though as a grade school-er I was incapable of realizing the wonder of Marie Dressler.



But the brightest of those early memories of the Roxy is still The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.  Bright indeed.  The first Hollywood film shot outdoors in color.  The color is rich but never garish; the photography is careful and quietly artful.  In the overall running time, there may be two mattes.  Fred MacMurray and Henry Fonda and especially Sylvia Sidney compel us to believe this unbelievable tale of sentimentalized mountain folk from the popular novel by John Fox, Jr. which also became popular as a play.  (See Pine note below.*)

There is just enough of a hard edge to the characters  —  and the playing  —  of MacMurray and Fonda to assist their credibility.  There is a surprising and even harder edge to June, the Sylvia Sidney character, a facet the actress grasps and delivers.  She is a mountain girl who for years has had an understanding, as it used to be called, with Dave, a cousin (Fonda), an understanding that she has never fully accepted and from which she periodically frets and revolts.  To their mountain area comes the railroad, hungry for their land.  June finds herself attracted to the railroad’s business representative Jack Hale (MacMurray) who is attracted to her as well but proves a man of mature responsibility, refusing to take offered advantage.  When June is given a chance to go to the city, she is fierce in her determination to take it, a chance finally “to have my fancies.”  As a small child I somehow knew what she meant.  She wanted pretty clothes and pretty things, which were her dreams.  The background of the story is a Hatfield/McCoy-like feud.  Here they’re the Tollivers and the Falins.

Fuzzy Knight has two memorable songs in the movie, and they actually belong in the story.  And while later, seeing this film as an adult, I had to suffer a supposedly cute Hollywood kid, at least Spanky McFarland as Buddy is not a smart aleck and does not even feel superior to all the adults around him.  I always enjoy glimpsing Clara Blandick before she became Auntie Em, and she has a small role as a landlady.

Sylvia Sidney gave many outstanding performances during a long career.  Well worth watching:  Sabotage (Hitchcock); Fury (Fritz Lang) (both from the same year as The Trail of the Lonesome Pine); Dead End (William Wyler); The Searching Wind (from the play by Lillian Hellman);  Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (Academy Award nomination).  She also had stage successes, one of which was the role of the governess in The Innocents, a dramatization of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw.

+Pine note:  The novel  was filmed in 1914; in 1916 (directed by Cecil B. DeMille); and in 1923 starring Mary Miles Minter, Antonio Moreno and Ernest Torrence.

The Trail of the Lonesome Pine     Henry Hathaway     1936


Until then,
Let’s go the movies.
See you there,



Rick’s Journal  –  MY FILM CAREER


Orphans of the Storm     D.W. Griffith     1921

Robert E. Sherwood (!) wrote:  “There is scarcely a scene or an effect in the entire production that is not beautiful to look upon, and there is scarcely a moment that is not charged with intense dramatic power.”

There is no accounting for taste.

This was my second viewing of Orphans of the Storm, and I am much less impressed this time.  The story, of two devoted sisters separated during the French Revolution, is implausible and foolish.  Almost all the acting is over-wrought, including that of both Gishes.  In the violently emotional scenes of which there are several and which are always too long, Lillian is embarrassing and unbelievable.  Dorothy, whom increasingly I consider the better actress, is even more over the top here.   Lillian is usually good at sex, and she is excellent in the scene where she grasps the villain’s intentions.  She is rarely as good at love, and she regularly spoils love scenes with what I find myself thinking of as her simper.

Lengthy Griffith never cuts to the chase, but he always get there.  The cross-cutting is excellent here.  If cross-cutting did not originate with Griffith, by this time he owned it and revels in it; but it is diluted by a foregone conclusion.

Griffith through and through:  There is a scene in which our villain’s coach runs over and kills a small child, and he asks if the horses are hurt.  It is an obvious and overdone scene, but it might have been moving had not Griffith inserted a mood-shattering title to inform that it is an actual historical incident.

The script is based on a play.  The Charles Affron biography of Lillian Gish gives the authors as Adolphe D’Ennery and Eugène Cormon.  Variety gives the play title as Les Deux orphalines.

Robert E. Sherwood wrote the cited comment for Life.  It is quoted in Halliwell’s guide.


On Saturday October 17 at 10:00 PM (Eastern), Turner Classic Movies offers an opportunity to  see Leslie Howard in his heyday as popular star and critical success.  The Petrified Forest also has Bette Davis in a performance coming between her two Academy Awards and in one of three appearances with Howard.  Humphrey Bogart has the supporting role of a lifetime as Duke Mantee, and he and Howard are excellent together  —  as they will be again the following year (Stand-In).  The Petrified Forest, 1936, is from the play by Robert E. Sherwood and is directed by Archie Mayo.  Tay Garnett directed the two men in Stand-In.


Until then,
See you at the movies,



Stay awake Monday night until 12:30 AM Tuesday morning and watch the great Leslie Howard in Five and Ten from 1931, directed by Robert Z. Leonard.  This is Howard’s only pairing with Marion Davies.  Irene Rich and Halliwell Hobbes are also in the cast.  British title is Daughter of Luxury, from a novel by Fannie Hurst.  (The 12:30 AM is Eastern time.)

NEXT REGULAR POST is Friday October 9.


The Music Room     Satyajit Ray     1958

The Music Room begins with a long and slow dolly towards what the viewer eventually grasps is an enormous and splendid chandelier.  It makes a sublime opening for a film which will explore quietly and slowly the mind and heart of a once wealthy landowner whom we grudgingly respect and perhaps eventually identify with.  The fact that you might not understand or appreciate India’s music will be no drawback to being drawn into and moved by the tale of a man who has frittered away his fortune and his standing through throwing expensive parties laced with expensive concerts in the music room of his home.  In middle age he finds that life has passed him by  —  no:  that he has allowed life to pass him by, making the realization twice as painful.

As _ the music lover Chhabi Biswas is excellent.  As his newly rich, absolutely annoying neighbor, Gangapada Basu is very good.  And as his personal servant and his steward, respectively, Kail Sarkar and Tulsi Lahiri are superb.

Music by Ravi Shankar.

TCM shows a fine print of The Music Room which is also available from amazon.

Pather Panchali     Satyajit Ray     1955

Pather Panchali (The Song of the Little Road) is documentary ficiton, a fictional documenatry.  When he made this, his first film, Satyajit Ray had seen the works of Flaherty and De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves and had worked on Renoir’s The River.  Ray is quoted in Sadoul as saying he wanted as little dramatization as possible.  And yet the exposition and the introduction of characters are skillfully, quietly done.

A boy and his older sister grow up in a Bengali village in a poor family in which the father is a would-be writer and the mother a developing shrew.  (The boy Apu, Subir Bannerjee; his sister Durga, Ruki Bannerjee Das Gupta; the mother, Karuna Bannerjee; the father, Kanu Bannerjee.)  I have read that Subir Bannerjee proved an acting problem and that his performance is a directorial/editorial achievement.  His face, however, in repose is captivating.  Ruki Bannerjee as his sister is a fine study in suppressed but undefeatable emotion.

It is a story in which very little seems to happen, and yet somehow everything does.  All life does.  Human emotional heights are reached, assisted by the music of Ravi Shankar which at times displaces the mouthed words of the players.  Mood and pace are enhanced by the unobtrusive but magical photography of Subarata Mitra.


The other member of the village household is Auntie (Chunibala Devi), who is eventually driven out by the mother to die alone in the nearby tropical woods.  While we have her she is a heartrending delight:  enjoying the stolen fruit that Durga smuggles to her; becoming suddenly authoritative  when a neighbor is abusing Durga and her mother; expressing concern and care for the mother who has just been very harsh to her; delighting the children with an artful, scary telling of a ghost story; and singing a song about a final crossing of a final river.


1)  The coming to the village of the vendor of sweets, one of the film’s most beautifully photographed sequences.

2)  Apu’s and Durga’s viewing of the passing train, a sequence surpassed, actually, by the silence before the arrival of the train as brother and sister wait in the tall, feathery, fern-like grasses.

3)  The death of Durga.

4)  The father’s learning of her death on his return from his long journey with a new sari for her.

5)  The film’s end as the family prepares to leave the village in hope of a better life in Benares.  Apu accidentally finds hidden the necklace which the difficult neighbor aand her daughter had accused Durga of stealing.  Lying on the floor at Apu’s feet, the necklae speaks for Durga’s simple wants and dreams  —  and perhaps those of all the family.

Dilys Powell, quoted in Halliwell:  “It has been left to the Indian cinema to give us a picture of a childhood which preserves under the shadow of experience not only its innoence but its gaiety.”

For Clevelanders and other northeast Ohioans:  This latter part of August, John Ewing is showing Pather Panchali and Aparajito at the new CIA Cleveland Cinematheque.  Aparajito is Satyajit Ray’s second film in the trilogy about Apu.  Check the Cinematheque website for days and times.

TCM CALENDAR:  Tomorrow, August 15 at 11:15 AM (Eastern), Turner Classic Movies will show Captured! (1933)  starring Leslie Howard.  Appearing with him are Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Paul Lukas.


Until then,
See you at the movies,