Thursday, August 14, 2014

"Yum Yum" Not a Tasty Treat in 1963

Didn’t we suffer through some rotten movies in the ‘60s?  Dean Jones doesn’t look like the dude who would agree to a chaste trial marriage with a sadistic professional virgin played by Carol Lynley in “Under the Yum Yum Tree.”  This movie got a lot of hype in LA in 1963 so I took a date to see it at Grauman’s Chinese Theater which was a big deal then. 

It’s being shown this month on GetTV so I revisited it and got a slice of the LA lifestyle circa 1963.  Horny bachelors of the day favored garish apartments with red walls and drove customized cardinal red Imperials.  Jack Lemmon played the lecherous bachelor landlord of the apartment building where the unwed couple cohabited while Walter Matthau or Don Rickles would be better.  The story dithers into a tit for tat Laurel and Hardy slapstick scene with Jones and Lemmon.  Reason to see this mess:  Paul Lynde as the gardener and Imogene Cocoa as the maid.  Lynley had an evil look that better suites her to “Dracula’s Daughter” than a romcom.  James Darren sings the title song and he could have handled the Jones role.  When it came to ‘60s comedies, AIP nailed it with the beach movies franchise.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

THE LIFE LESS ORDINARY

He was the most famous wrier of his generation and she was determined not to be “a footnote to  someone else’s life” which didn’t bode well for the merger of Ernest Hemingway and pioneer woman war correspondent Martha Gellhorn.  Their tumultuous relationship is brought to the screen in the compelling “Hemingway and Gellhorn” film directed by Philip Kaufman.  I noticed this DVD at library checkout while I was picking up “A Stricken Field,” Gellhorn’s novelized account of covering the human tragedies in World War II Central Europe.  
With Gellhorn, the macho Hemingway more than met his match.  Nicole Kidman is outstanding as Martha and Clive Owen is memorable as the Hemingway who was boozing and fishing while the “misses” was covering the war for Collier’s magazine.  (I previously read her Collier’s articles.)  Hemingway dismissed Gellhorn as a “journalist” writing human interest stories.  When Hemingway stole her Collier assignment to cover the Normandy Invasion, she found a way to scoop him on that story by going undercover as a nurse on a British hospital ship accompanying the troops.  In a memorable scene, Joan Chen plays Madame Chiang Kai-shek  at a dinner with the Hemingways with Gellhorn raising unpleasant references to Chinese poverty and hunger.  While Hemingway feared being branded a communist sympathizer, Gellhorn confronted social justice issues head-on.

In the scenes involving the Spanish Civil War, John DosPesos, photographer Robert Capa and movie director Joris Ivens (“The Spanish Earth”) are featured.  European war scenes are shown in grainy sepia tone or two color (Cinecolor) process.  It worked for me, particularly when  matched with Richard Attenborough’s “In Love and War,” which is the “Fairwell to Arms” story about Hemingway being rejected by the nurse Agnes who recounts the affair thusly:  “The hurt boy became an angry man.”  Now I need to find a decent DVD of “Farewell to Arms,” the original.

Friday, July 25, 2014

“Philo Vance Returns” (after 60 years)

Imagine my joy when oldies.com advertised the long lost 1947 PRC Pathe thriller “Philo Vance Returns” which I last saw on KXLY’s Early Show in 1953 at the Barkers’ house on their Teleking TV set.  Vance solves the case of the killer lady with William Wright in the lead and directed by William Beaudine (one shot Willie) who is well known for his Monogram Charlie Chan mysteries.  Kudos to Films Around the World Video for making a viewable movie from both 35mm and 16mm prints.  I knew that the perpetrator was a woman but didn’t know her name.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Even Big Budgets Couldn’t Save Musicals

In 1969 with Kent State, the Vietnam War and the cultural revolution, TCF released the 1964 musical hit “Hello Dolly” with a miscast lead and an inept director.  Anyone surprised that it flopped?  Young movie audiences were still grooving on “The Graduate” and “Wild in the Streets.”  Matthew Kennedy provides a history of movie musicals from 1960 to present day in “Roadshow: the fall of film musicals in the 1960s.”  Roadshow movies were a big city 70mm phenomena with tickets $4.50 and a souvenir program for sale in the lobby.   “Around the World in 80 Days” was  the only roadshow I remember in Spokane and Boise certainly was not a roadshow venue. 
Kennedy argues that the big studios had numerous roadshow failures because of inattention to details of casting and production.  When I was a Idaho Statesman reporter, my office mate Ken Burrows covered filming of “Paint Your Wagon” in nearby Baker, Ore.  This was a very expensive stinker with Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin, but a big deal for the Treasure Valley of Idaho and Oregon.   
Kennedy credits “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “The Sound of Music” as being among the winners.  The loser list is too long but includes “Star!”, “Dr. Doolittle” and “Hello, Dolly,” all from TCF which had to sell properties to raise cash and stay afloat.  The British got it right with “Oliver!” although Kennedy dismisses this movie even though it was commercially successful.  American International Pictures, with its beach musicals and horror movies, made money while the big boys hemorrhaged cash.  

Kennedy omitted “Across the Universe” and “Xanadu” in his discussion of movie musicals and these are two of my favorites.  With multiplex movie theaters today hungry for patrons, apparently the 3-D novelty is over, which is reminiscent of what became of big budget musicals in the 1960s.  Art houses are an alternative but often are not centrally located and are in areas with few parking possibilities.

Friday, July 18, 2014

YOU DON’T KNOW JACK

Amidst the regal splendor of Big Sur, beat novelist Jack Kerouac has an alcohol induced nervous breakdown in the 2013 movie “Big Sur” based on the Kerouac novel of the same name.  Kerouac is a conflicted tortured soul with feelings for Neal and Caroline Cassady.  Kate Bosworth plays Billie who is having affairs with both Jack and Neal.   Book store owner Lawrence Ferenghetti advises Jack that his problem is drinking red wine whereas he should stick with the white.  Jack is very much a pathetic mess here in his ‘40s and not enjoying the notoriety of “On the Road.”  If you are into the Beat Generation and all things Jack, this is for you (on DVD.)  The scenery is superb on the northern California coast.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

BURIAL MARKETING 101

MINNEAPOLIS — What do I know about napkin etiquette lunching with ladies today at the turn of the century Woman’s Club (singular)?  Apparently, leave it on the chair when you excuse yourself to go to the buffet table.  We were guests of Margaret and Tom today for lunch at the club and a field trip to the Lakewood Cemetery on the shores of Lake Calhoun where Sen. Wellstone and Vice President Humphrey rest.  This was a choice marketing opportunity for Lakewood’s Mr. Joyboy who narrated an hour long slide show and conducted the bus tour of the grounds.  Most of us were long in tooth matrons contemplating the world beyond so we were prime prospects for Lakewood so we were treated to the grand mausoleum and the historic art deco chapel.  Joyboy nixed the notion that Uncle Charlie’s ashes go on the mantel but should rest in the mausoleum.  Lakewood is contemplating full service with a funeral home on the grounds.  Bowing to the technologically chic, they now have wifi on the grounds so there’s no need to show up for a funeral.  Get a friend to Skype the proceedings and watch it on your phone or computer without ever leaving home.  If any of this reminds you of Forest Lawn and “The Loved One,” we are on the same page.  

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

MY FAIR LADY


MINNEAPOLIS — It was SRO last night at the Guthrie and I was in the nose bleed section but what a night!  Tyler Michaels stole the show with “On the Street Where You Live” on a bicycle no less.  The ‘60s movie of the same name suffers by comparison to the Guthrie effort here which features leads who actually sing (unlike Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn.)  And who didn’t have a MFL LP in 1956?  Here’s mine that I bought at Newberry’s in Spokane.  The movie is based on the 1938 RKO/Rank movie “Pygmalion” which is excellent.