Gary Cooper in HIGH NOON







Over the Rainbow

HIGH NOON by Glenn Frankel.  Riveting tale of the creation of a Hollywood masterpiece, the story of which includes the investigation of the film industry  by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee.  With a piquant glance at the career of Gary Cooper.  (See Rick’s Flicks 4/28/18.)

THE NAME ABOVE THE TITLE by Frank Capra.  As good a book as exists of a creator’s analysis of his own work  —  and an insider’s look at the Hollywood of the 30s.  But in a sad conclusion Capra unaccountably savages himself.   Copious stills and other photographs.

THE MAKING OF THE WIZARD OF OZ by Aljean Harmetz.  Thoroughly researched, this still reads like a novel.  It is especially good at revealing who was responsible for what on the committee that achieved this Hollywood masterpiece.

RAINBOW by Christopher Finch.  THE best of the more than forty books about Judy Garland.  Finch understands what was done to her and what she did to herself.  But he also understands and appreciates her work.

GODARD, A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AT SEVENTY by Colin McCabe.  An outstanding study of the works of the man considered by most to be the greatest  —  certainly the most influential  — filmmaker living.  Filmography and “Select Bibliography” which actually is quite exhaustive.

THE MAKING OF GWTW by Gavin Lambert.  By the novelist, essayist and film critic.  An analytical look at Gone with the Wind especially useful in its attempt to assign certain scenes to certain of the film’s several directors.  Lambert makes a case that through her struggles with director Victor Fleming and her creation of her own Scarlett  —  subtly different from Fleming’s and even author Margaret Mitchell’s  —  Vivien Leigh became a creative force in the making of the film.

HITCHCOCK’S MUSIC by Jack Sullivan.  An intriguing, thorough study of the master’s use of music in all his films, from the beginning through FAMILY PLOT.  The book is at times detailed to the point that with it in hand, you can follow the music scene by scene in a given film.

THE GREAT MOVIES by William Bayer.  A personal but responsible selection by a perceptive critic.  Again, a coffee table format with outstanding illustrations but containing sophisticated analyses of films through Cabaret in 1972.

FIVE CAME BACK by Mark Harris.  An account of five Hollywood directors and the propaganda films they made during World War ll (Wyler, Ford, Capra, Huston, Stevens).  Thoroughly researched, it too reads like a novel.  (See Rick’s Flicks 9/29/17).


My readers will recognize that my second ten favorites list includes but nine entries.  I still need a good title in the field of animation and still welcome any followers’ recommendations.

In addition, the two titles I was considering as histories of the WESTERN turned out disappointing as I studied them again in preparation for my list.  So, I need suggestions in that rich category as well.

Let me hear from you.

Frank Capra







Jean-Luc Godard


Until then,
See you at the movies.


Rick’s Journal    —    MY FILM CAREER

And now there’s to be a new Oscar category!  An award for non-achievement!!

I can’t open a desk drawer or reach for an attic shelf or look in a file without finding Oscar notes  — jottings I have made over many years as I have planned the world’s definitive article about the Academy Award problem, not so much the frequent problem of the Academy’s choices as the perennial problem of what is now called the Oscar Show.

The problem comes with the fact there IS a show.

For many years the presentation of the annual awards was just that  —  a presentation.  It took a lot of years for it to become a jumbled mess of song and dance hosted by someone who is hired to make fun of all the awards presented.

It is hard for me to believe now how breathlessly I used to await the Academy’s annual decisions.  And it is still impossible to dismiss an award that went to Laurence Olivier and Daniel Day Lewis, twice to Vivien Leigh, Bette Davis and Luise Rainer and three times to Meryl Streep.  The Academy appropriately presented Olivia de Havilland with a second statuette despite the fact that Susan Hayward had already announced who was coming to her victory party.  (Susan Hayward!  I ask you.)

Knowing now that I will never write that definitive article  —  given all the changes in award giving by the Academy and too many other groups, given the fact the Academy  now wants to be more of a political and social force  than an arts organization, I am going to throw at my readers my collection of shocking quotes as a way of easing my burden and moving on from my aborted article.

I seem especially to have tied myself in knots about all this in 2008, which seems to be the year from which many of my notes date.

I’ll begin with A.O. Scott of the New York Times:  “…I am…bothered by the disproportionate importance that the Academy Awards have taken on, and with the distorting influence they exercise over the way we make, market and see movies in this country.”

The article on these matters that most infuriates me still is by Sean Smith and Benjamin Svetkey, “Biggest Night,”  Entertainment Weekly, 3/7/08.  The article is devoid of any grasp that awards are (or should be) for quality.  The article is about making movies that will make people watch the Oscar show,

Well, what can you expect when an Academy president (Tom Sherak then) says that to get the public interested in the show you have to “make them feel invested, and that’s done by having movies they like up for awards.”  The professional and aesthetic responsibility revealed here is staggering, is it not?  Quality, anyone?

That statement is quoted in an article by David Mermelstein in the Wall Street Journal.  Mermelstein also writes:  “ABC, the show’s long-time broadcaster, depends on high numbers [ratings] to set pricey advertising rates.  The greater the fees, the more the network pays to televise the ceremony.  That’s important because over 90% of the Academy’s revenue is derived from this relationship…”

Getting back to that article by Smith and Svetkey, the only real historical perspective in the piece comes in a quote from Bruce Davis, Executive Director of the Academy:  “We gave out Oscars before there was any television broadcast at all.”  But before I can shout aloud to myself “Hear!  Hear!”  —  the article immediately makes fun of this remark .

But does one laugh or cry about Bruce Davis who is quoted again:  “… it’s not because we’re too dumb to know that people aren’t fascinated by who wins best production design.”  They’ll never be fascinated with this kind of example being set by the Academy’s own E.D.   They might become interested if the same scripted explanations of awards were not engaged in year after year along with stupid comments about the categories from stupid people like Goldie Hawn and Mike Meyers.

As to some historical perspective:  “In the Academy’s third competition, there were no  less than eight nominations for Best Actor, including two each for Ronald Colman, Maurice Chevalier and Geoege Arliss.”  THEM WAS THE DAYS!  (From The Films of the Twenties by Vermilye.)

For more perspective, look into the choices the New York Film Critics were making in the 30s, 40s and 50s and the choices the Golden Globes were making until they began aping Hollywood and bowing to misguided comments about their unusual nominations.

Smith and Svetkey do realize and comment on “a Fragmented media culture  —  with a glut of award shows and 24-hour entertainment coverage dimming the mystery of stardom.”

Much is habitually written about the show’s inordinate length with  naive suggestions about shortening acceptance speeches.  The problem of length is not in the acceptance speeches.  Why shouldn’t people say thank for perhaps a singular moment in their lives.  The problem is with presenter cut-ups, dumb jokes  —  and ridiculously long walks to the podium by people who have forgotten to wear shoes and gowns that can negotiate the walk.

Of course the main culprit as to the length of the show is what A.O. Scott calls “the overproduced, underwhelming renditions of the nominated songs.”

Scott also writes, “The wonderful thing about the Academy Awards is that they are fundamentally trivial.  To pretend otherwise is to trivialize movies.” Ah Sir Laurence!  Ah Lady Vivien!  Olivia!  Luise!  the BD!  Daniel DL!

But what to make of this?:  “If, as expected, ‘Iron Man’ comes into the awards mix, that will be partly because Paramount recently moved a more conventional prospect, a drama called ‘The Soloist,’ into next year and out of contention.  That film … had promised to complicate the studio’s life at a time when it saw awards potential form the currently very hot Mr. Downey in three pictures at once.”  (Cieply & Barnes)


Cieply, Michael and Brooks Barnes, “Box Office Winners.” New York Times 10/28/08.

Mermelstein, David………..Wall Street Journal, 3/3/10.  (I am unable to locate the title of Mermelstein’s interview with Tom Sherak, Academy president.)

Scott, A.O. “Are Oscars Worth All This Fuss?” New York Times, 2/24/08.

Smith, Sean and Benjamin Svetkey. “Why Does Hollywood’s Biggest Night Keep Getting Smaller?” Entertainment Weekly, 3/7/08.

Vermilye, Jerry, The Films of the Twenties. Secaucus, The Citadel Press, 1985.



Academy Award











And now the Academy is establishing a new category  — for a movie that does not deserve to be nominated or awarded but WILL be because it has been popular.  (Hasn’t it already received its award?)

Until then,
See you at the movies,


Rick’s Journal    —    MY FILM CAREER

Variety Girl
George Marshall
original songs by Frank Loesser

The exposition delivered in the first scene by Joan Caulfield and Barbara Stanwyck is so clumsy that I was ready to give the film up.  But I stayed, became engrossed and,  finally, delighted.

The highpoint for me this view around was the same as when I saw the initial release of Variety Girl:  Alan Ladd and Dorothy Lamour are sensational introducing the song Tallahassee.  (It would become a hit and be recorded by the Andrews Sisters with Bing Crosby.)  Dorothy Lamour is in general a surprisingly vibrant presence in the film.  Once the jungle princess cast off her sarong, she became an effervescent  charmer.

the Andrews Sisters with Bing Crosby

The slim plot is, of course, an excuse for promoting as many stars of the Paramount lot as could be reasonably accomodated.  The character of the studio boss (Frank Ferguson) is funny; and so is the running gag which has our heroine Catherine Brown (Mary Hatcher), aka Amber LaVonne,  somehow always involving him in water:  a bucket; a pool, the sound stage river.  Olga San Juan is perfect, and hilarious, as the other Amber LaVonne.

At the end of a very brief skit Gary Cooper utters the best-timed “Giddyap” that anyone could imagine.  Robert Preston appears even more briefly but proves as sterling as always.  Billy De Wolfe does food again (remember “Meex meex, toss toss…”?)  Directors George Marshall and Mitchell Leisen play parts, have lines.  Cecil B. DeMille, on his set, is one hundred percent believable playing his arrogant self.

A young DeForest Kelley is pleasant  —  and super sexy!  DeForest Kelly!  —  as the other half of the young love interest.  Pearl Bailey sings I’m Tired. 

the great onscreen couple, Lake and Ladd, with Robert Preston

My disappointment came with seeing Veronica Lake, in an autograph-hound skit, enter on Alan Ladd’s arm  —  then never appearing again until the film’s candid curtain call.  ( She is still with Alan Ladd then  and gives the impression of needing him and being dependent on him.)






*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

Rick’s Flicks has added a PAGE to its FILE ON VIVIEN LEIGH

Click on Vivien Leigh up top here, then scroll down and click on “A Making Of…”.


Until then,
See you AT the movies,




Movies are everywhere, including good books.  In Graham Greene’s The Last Word, a collection of otherwise uncollected stories, he includes a piece called “Work Not in Progress.”  It purports to be a sketch for a never-completed, never-performed musical comedy called My Girl in Gaiters.  The story line concerns the kidnapping of a whole convocation of Anglican cardinals by a gang of London thugs.  The motive is theft.  The cardinals, in their underwear, are locked in a church building basement.  “The twelve thugs are led by a woman who is the brains of the gang (and the only woman in the cast).  When I have had an extra glass of champagne I dream that she is played by Vivien Leigh.”

The sketch even includes lyrics for some songs.

Graham Greene, The Last Word and other stories.  Reinhardt Books, 1990.


Until then,
See you at the movies,


Rick’s Journal    —    MY FILM CAREER


I’ve seen celebrities in the theater (as playgoers, not thespians).  I’ve seen them at the movies.  And I’ve seen them shopping.  (See Rick’s Flicks for 9/16/16.)  But it was in Westwood Village, hard by UCLA, that I saw them as man and woman on the street (Cornel Wilde in Beverly Hills, more on that later).

The Hollywood star I glimpsed most often was Jack Lemmon.  The first occasion came when my mother was out to California for a visit, and we passed him on the sidewalk.  She liked him especially, and at that time had seen every movie he had made.  Lemmon was the first celebrity she saw on that first visit to California, and she was, literally, thrilled.  “That’s Lemmon!”  He was the only celebrity she always called by only his surname  —  except Garbo.  (My mother was from Charleston; and on the rare occasions when she used the latter’s first name, she called her Greeta Gahbo.)

Together we saw Lemmon again at Disneyland.  He was with a small boy who, I supposed, was getting his first lesson in rights and race:  “He has just as much right to be there as you, son.”

I next saw Jack Lemmon at the Village Theatre.  From across the street I watched him on the sidewalk outside the theater being deferential to a producer-type.  The scene was a preview showing of Boys Night Out.

It was also in Westwood Village that I unobtrusively watched Peter Falk park his red car.  And I saw Rock Hudson standing at the open hatch of a large beige station wagon outside the sporting goods store.  That was one big man.

In that earlier post that I wrote about the happy sight of Esther Williams Christmas shopping in Westwood’s largest bookstore.  I once saw Katy Jurado shopping, too.  She was choosing Christmas tree ornaments in the closest thing to a dime store that existed there at the time.  There was a small all-eyes child at her side.  I cannot remember:  girl or boy?  I was absorbed in the lady’s own luminous and vulnerable eyes and those unique lips.

I was fortunate to run into stars in movie theaters, too.  I spotted lovely  —  as in lovely person  —  Betty Grable at the candy concession in the Bruin Theatre, buying candy for her two boys to take with them into Cowboy with Jack Lemmon (that name again) and Glenn Ford.  It would have been grand to tell her how much her musicals meant to me as a boy about the age of her youngest.  But I do not annoy celebrities.

I did see her once more, years later, as Dolly on the New York stage.  I had a ticket for the third row and was so enthusiastic in response and applause during the show that I detected  —  great professional though she was  —    that she noticed me, though that was never my intention.

I saw Dennis Hopper at the movies, too.   He and a date, with a double date, sat behind me at the Los Feliz Theatre for Pather Panchali.  The four of them were worriesomely convivial until Ray’s film began, then silent as cat feet in fog.

I glimpsed more stars in theaters in Los Angeles and Hollywood than I saw in theaters during all the years I lived in New York.  I can boast only two New York sightings.  At a first night I was surprised by the incomparable dental structure and ferocious smile of Gale Sondergaard.  Who knew that ol’ Gale would carry that smile down the years all the way to the face of Eagle Woman in The Return of a Man Called Horse?*  On another occasion I saw, at intermission, in deep theatrical evaluation with a companion, the Queen of First Nights, Anita Louise.

Staying with theater sightings  —  finding celebrities in the audience at stage plays  —  I recall a stunning Joan Fontaine in a red dress at a Theatre Group performance on the UCLA campus.  She was aware that I saw her.  How often must this happen to all of them?

And in downtown Los Angeles when I went to see Vivien Leigh on stage in Duel of Angels, I sat across the aisle from Lucille Ball and a a young escort.   She was chewing gum.  As I was leaving at the end, she and her companion were headed down the theater alley toward the stage door.  She was still chewing.

In Beverly Hills, in addition to my unforgettable vision of Rita Hayworth (Rick’s Flicks 3/11/16), I saw Cornel Wilde, a long ago favorite, coming out of the drugstore and lighting a cigarette from the pack he had just purchased.

*Gale Sondergaard delivered one of my all-time favorite lines.  It contributed to her winning the first supporting actress Academy Award (Anthony Adverse, 1936).  She and husband (Claude Raines) are in a snow-covered, icy mountain pass.  There is trouble with the coach.  They are sitting on a cold rock while the coachman does his best.  But coach and coachman end up sliding off the precipice.  Raines, almost in tears, says the man was the best servant he ever had.  Ol’ Gale:  “The coach was rather handy, too.”


Until then,
See you at the movies,



In Southern California I lived in Westwood by the UCLA campus for several years.  It was a hot spot for celebrity watching.  At the time when I was living there in a dark but large and quiet apartment, Westwood offered two bookstores.  I glimpsed Claire Bloom in one of them, the smaller one  with a good collection of film books  —  next to my dry cleaner.  In the other larger and brighter one , on a sunny and warm December afternoon, I spotted Esther Williams who, I felt sure, was Christmas shopping.  What do you do when you’re more interested in a celebrity’s co-stars than in the celebrity?  Miss Williams, what was it like working with Ricardo Montalban?  I am forever grateful now not to have asked Claire Bloom about Vivien Leigh.  In reality, that would have been too early.  It was two to three years before their play together.

And all this is fantasy.  I would never ask anyone anything.  I never approach celebrities.  I would never spoil the privacy of anyone I admire  —  or anyone I don’t for that matter..  On a Manhattan bus I once watched a couple, standing in a crowded aisle, address Margaret Hamilton, seated and captive.  She graciously received their complimentary remarks, but I was appalled.  How would you like to be asked by perfect strangers if you had your ruby slippers with you?

At a panel discussion I attended in Cleveland, during a question and answer session, I did ask Teresa Wright what it was like working with Richard Carlson in The Little Foxes.  I was intrigued that she did not answer my question.  She talked about what she considered Carlson’s unfortunate role in the film.  She described as silly their scene together in which Carlson ended up running down the street in his underwear.  She felt bad for him.

I may be taking my own question too seriously, but I feel that she deliberately did not answer it.  She replied in a way that could not offend the Carlson fan I had described myself as being, in my question.  There is also the factor  —  possible factor  —  that Richard Carlson once had, perhaps unjustified, a reputation as womanizer.  Was there something about him Miss Wright preferred not to discuss?  —  something about him, that is, not about herself.

More on Westwood and West Los Angeles in blogs to come.


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,