Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Ivan G. Shreve Jr. ""

Monday, December 22, 2014

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Ivan G. Shreve Jr.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. is a freelance writer with Radio Spirits and ClassicFlix.  His weblog, Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, wallows in the nostalgia that is classic movies, vintage television and old-time radio.
1) Exit Smiling (1926) – Comedienne Beatrice Lillie was not a fan of making films because the medium did not allow for the immediate response from a live audience.  And this is indeed a tragedy, for she proves in this delightful silent comedy—in which she plays an aspiring actress (who’s most relegated to housekeeping chores) with a repertory company—that she just might have been one of that era’s outstanding cinematic talents. Directed by Sam Taylor (who co-helmed many of Harold Lloyd’s silent classics, including Safety Last! and The Freshman), Smilingalso marks the feature film debut of the silver screen’s go-to guy for fussy exasperation: Franklin Pangborn (he can be funny without sound).

2) Girl Missing (1933) – Snappy pre-Code comedy-mystery stars Glenda Farrell and Mary Brian as a pair of chorus girls concerned about the disappearance of one of their fellow chorines.  Farrell, the silver screen’s favorite wisecracking blonde, gets most of the good lines (“Now don't disturb Mother while she's making biscuits”) as a refreshingly blunt working girl who’s fiercely loyal to pal Brian (also known as “The Sweetest Girl in the Movies”) and encourages her romance with jilted newlywed Ben Lyon. Directed by B-movie master Robert Florey, Missing also features Lyle Talbot, Louise Beavers and future three-time Oscar winner Walter Brennan.

3) Ramrod (1947) – Veronica Lake puts her onscreen shallowness to great use in this “noir” western; she plays a ruthlessly ambitious ranch owner who manipulates ramrod Joel McCrea and his sidekick Don DeFore in her standoff with Preston Foster, who’s every bit Lake’s equal in the cold-blooded department.  Director Andre de Toth demonstrates that it’s not all that hard to meld Western and film noir elements; the stars and supporting players turn in first-rate performances as well, since they’re not let down by a script adapted from a short story by Luke Short (whose other contributions to “Western noir” include Station West and Blood on the Moon).

4) Repeat Performance (1947) – It’s positively criminal that this underrated film has never been released to home video, though the Film Noir Foundation is doing what they can to restore this sleeper (described by Alan K. Rode as “the noir version of It’s a Wonderful Life”) starring Joan Leslie as a woman who gets an opportunity to relive the past year on New Year’s Eve in an attempt to change the past.  Louis Hayward and Tom Conway co-star in this one, but it’s Richard Basehart who truly shines in his feature film debut.  (I had to watch this one on YouTube; not my preferred venue for movies but it was the only way I could see it.)

5) The Sun Shines Bright (1953) – Director John Ford considered this charming comedy-drama—a remake of his previous Judge Priest (1934)—among his favorite films; character great Charles Winninger plays a circuit court judge in postbellum Kentucky who must administer to several crises during his reelection campaign…including a budding romance between two young lovers (John Russell, Arleen Whelan) and saving a wrongly accused man (Elzie Emmanuel) from a lynch mob.  If you’re able to look past the uncomfortable stereotypes and the rather idealized depiction of the remnants of the Old Confederacy (a common theme in Ford films) you’ll enjoy this nice slice of Americana, inspired by the stories of Irvin S. Cobb (whom Ford directed in the 1935 Will Rogers comedy Steamboat Round the Bend).


Laura said...

Terrific list, Ivan! I've seen the middle three films and really like them all -- especially REPEAT PERFORMANCE which was one of my Favorite Discoveries last year. Wonderful, wonderful movie, the kind that makes you want to keep exploring unknown titles in the hopes of finding similar unsung gems. Glad to see you sing its praises!

Best wishes,

KC said...

This is an interesting list Ivan. I haven't even heard of most of these movies, but I want to see all of them.

Anonymous said...

REPEAT PERFORMANCE has been restored by the Film Noir Foundation and I got to see the result on the big screen at UCLA last year. Not sure why it hasn't surfaced on DVD or, at the very least, on TCM by now.