Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2019 - Laura G ""

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Film Discoveries of 2019 - Laura G

If you weren't already aware, Laura runs the wonderful blog Laura's Miscellaneous Musings, which is a must for any classic film fans:
She can be found on Twitter here:

Check out her Film Discoveries of 2018 here:

THE DELICIOUS LITTLE DEVIL (Robert Z. Leonard, 1919) 
I'm honored to contribute my seventh annual list of Favorite Discoveries! As is often the case, my list begins with a silent film. This movie is a great example of why I love the Cinecon Festival, held in Hollywood every Labor Day weekend; I typically see a number of random first-time watches at that festival which often turn out to be quite special, and this was one from last year's fest. Mae Murray plays Mary, a girl who's her family's sole support; out of desperation she takes a job dancing at a roadhouse and becomes a sensation. Wealthy Jimmy (Rudolph Valentino) falls in love with Mary, but her "bad girl" reputation dismays Jimmy's father (Edward Jobson). Little does Jimmy's father know she's actually the "good" Irish girl he wants his son to marry. This movie was tremendous fun and received an enthusiastic audience response, a century after it was released. It left me with a big smile on my face.

Not on DVD.

HIT PARADE OF 1941 (John H. Auer, 1941) 
Another favorite from Cinecon. The plot is a bunch of silliness about a radio station, but it's got great singing (Frances Langford) and dancing (Ann Miller) and a story which foreshadows some aspects of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952), with Miller becoming a radio star thanks to Langford's dubbing. It's hard to believe the beautiful Miller, who is also quite funny, was just 17 years old at the time. The movie received a Best Song Oscar nomination for Jule Styne and Walter Bullock's "Who Am I?" Wishing for a DVD so I can enjoy it again!

Not on DVD.
THE SPOILERS (Ray Enright, 1942) 
I love John Wayne and Randolph Scott but had never caught up with this one; honestly the delay was probably due to the leading lady being Marlene Dietrich, but she's been an acquired taste I now appreciate more than I once did. This story set in 1900 Nome, Alaska, is an engaging, rip-roaring adventure in which Scott and Margaret Lindsay's "nice" girl turn out to be thieves going after mine claims. The movie has good dialogue, well-delineated characters, an interesting setting, and a slam-bang fistfight between Wayne and Scott to cap it all off. The three leads are all good, as expected, but it's Wayne whose star power really lights up the screen.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

TRAPPED (Richard Fleischer, 1949) 
I liked this crime film so much that I saw it not once but three times in 2019! My first two viewings of this UCLA restoration were at film festivals, followed by the beautiful new Blu-ray released at year end. Lloyd Bridges plays a convicted counterfeiter who gives the feds the slip (it's a bit of a story) and heads for Los Angeles, his girl Meg (gorgeous Barbara Payton), and the counterfeiting plates which will net them a comfortable life in Mexico. Little does Bridges suspect that the masher (John Hoyt) trying to attract Meg's interest at the nightclub where she works is not quite the disreputable person he seems to be. The plot barrels along in a quick 78 minutes, with marvelous set pieces taking full advantage of L.A. locations; the shootout finale takes place in a Red Car barn. Fans of film noir and great mid-Century L.A. filming will love it.

Available in a Blu-ray/DVD combination set from Flicker Alley.

NEVER FEAR (Ida Lupino, 1949) 
Ida Lupino's first credited directing was this story of Carol (Sally Forrest), a young dancer just reaching professional success and personal happiness with her partner (Keefe Brasselle)...and then out of the blue she collapses with polio. Carol spirals into depression and pushes her fiance away, but eventually her hard work rehabilitating and a journey of personal self-discovery lead her back to happiness. Forrest and Brasselle, who worked with Lupino on multiple occasions, are an appealing young couple, and there's fascinating location work at the Kabat-Kaiser Institute in Santa Monica, well shot in black and white by Archie Stout. Thanks in part to that location filming, the movie's depiction of disability and treatment feels unusually authentic for the era.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber.

SHAKEDOWN (Joseph Pevney, 1950) 
This is a rarely seen Universal Pictures film with Howard Duff as Jack Early, an unscrupulous newspaper photographer who will stop at nothing to get a sensational picture. Jack sells his soul to the devil when he takes cash and the promise of access to "big" pictures from a gangster (Brian Donlevy) in return for Jack's "help." This is an absorbing film with Duff playing a character so reprehensible that the film festival audience applauded when he received his comeuppance. The film has a terrific cast including Peggy Dow and Bruce Bennett as Jack's more ethical newspaper colleagues and Lawrence Tierney as another gangster.

Not on DVD.
SUDDEN FEAR (David Miller, 1952) 
I caught up with this Joan Crawford classic for the first time at the 2019 Noir City Hollywood festival, and I was not disappointed. Crawford plays a wealthy heiress and playwright who marries a young actor (Jack Palance); the lovestruck bride then discovers that her happy marriage isn't happy at all, as her new husband is plotting to kill her! Crawford's nonverbal acting is a wonder; while her reaction scene as she hears her husband's plans on the dictaphone she'd accidentally left running is justly famous, there are many more great moments, including the scene where she agonizes over her plan to retaliate. I felt that Crawford's early silent film experience may have been beneficial as she so completely nails scene after scene with no dialogue. Like some other films on this list, it has wonderful location shooting, in this case in San Francisco -- although the filmmakers cheated a little and also filmed at Bunker Hill in Los Angeles.

Available on DVD from Kino Lorber and Blu-ray from the Cohen Film Collection.

PLAYGIRL (Joseph Pevney, 1954) 
This was a very enjoyable film with Colleen Miller as a Midwestern girl who comes to New York in search of a more exciting life. She quickly lands a great job modeling for a magazine, but there's trouble ahead when the publisher (Barry Sullivan) falls in love with her, angering her roommate (Shelley Winters), who happens to be his mistress. As I wrote at my blog, PLAYGIRL is "one of those films which may not be great drama yet is completely entertaining." (For added fun, Miller was in the audience watching along with us!)

Not on DVD.

THE MIAMI STORY (Fred F. Sears, 1954) 
Barry Sullivan again! I really enjoy him. In this one he's Mick Flagg, a former gangster now living a quiet rural life as a widowed father. When the attorney (Dan Riss) who gained Mick's acquittal for murder begs for his help clearing Miami of the Mob in return for a substantial reward, Mick sees an opportunity to clear his reputation and put away funds for his son's future. Flagg leaves his son with friends and makes a splashy reappearance in Miami, shaking up top mobster Tony Brill (Luther Adler), who had framed him for murder. Beverly Garland is appealing as a young woman looking for her missing sister (Adele Jergens), who turns out to be running a prostitution ring for Brill's racket. This is an action-packed little film with an exciting story. Sullivan is absolutely tops in a multishaded performance, and Jergens is also quite good as a hardbitten woman who's most definitely not a nice person.

Available on Blu-ray from Kit Parker Films.

THE MIDNIGHT STORY (Joseph Pevney, 1957) 
One more Universal Pictures film directed by Joseph Pevney which was seen at the Noir City Hollywood festival. Tony Curtis plays Joe, a young San Francisco cop so devastated by the murder of the priest who was his mentor that, denied the opportunity to work on the case, he leaves the force to investigate on his own. That leads him to rent a room from Sylvio (Gilbert Roland), whom Joe suspects may be the killer; however, the orphaned Joe is increasingly conflicted as he's sucked into the heart of Sylvio's warm family and falls in love with lovely Anna (Marisa Pavan). A wonderful melding of family drama, romance, and murder mystery, with scenes filmed on location in San Francisco by Russell Metty.

Not on Region 1 DVD, but available in Europe on a Region 2 DVD from Screenbound Pictures.

KING CREOLE (Michael Curtiz, 1958)
This Elvis film sold me from its opening minutes with the evocative pre-credits singing of "Crawfish," filmed on location in the New Orleans French Quarter. Elvis is terrific as Danny, a young man struggling with school and staying out of trouble; when a nightclub owner (Paul Stewart) offers him a singing job, it starts to turn Danny's life around, until another nightclub owner, Maxie (Walter Matthau), blackmails Danny into taking a job with him instead. Meanwhile Danny is torn between a sweet, virginal young girl (Dolores Hart) and Maxie's hardbitten, unhappy mistress (Carolyn Jones). Though there's plenty of music, this feels less like a musical and more like a drama which just happens to have music. Elvis is excellent, musically powerful and surprisingly good in the dramatic scenes.

Available on DVD in various editions from Paramount.

BRONCO BILLY (Clint Eastwood, 1980) 
The most recent film on my list, this offbeat, sweet-natured film directed by and starring Clint Eastwood was an unexpected treat. Eastwood plays the head of a tent show troupe who form an ersatz "family." Into their midst comes Miss Antoinette Lily (Sondra Locke), an heiress whose husband (Geoffrey Lewis) abandoned her on their wedding night. Miss Lily, who was left without so much as a suitcase, then discovers she has good reason to stay out of sight for a while and signs on with Billy's carnival crew. The movie is filled with ex-cons and people doing nutty things, yet it has a loving and upbeat, optimistic tone, with themes including caring for others and deciding to change one's life for the better. Although the movie was set around the time of its release year, in many ways it plays more as a Depression-era film, including a dash of '30s screwball comedy. After enjoying both this and ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (1979) last year, I'm looking forward to more Eastwood films.

Available on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive.

A baker's dozen of more great discoveries from this year which there's not room to discuss here: PETER PAN (1924), MILLS OF THE GODS (1934), HOP-A-LONG CASSIDY (1935), LOVE AFFAIR (1939), DESERT FURY (1947), WYOMING (1947), APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER (1950), HELL'S HALF ACRE (1954), THE SCARLET HOUR (1956), HOT CARS (1956), GUNS, GIRLS AND GANGSTERS (1959), AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON (1962), and ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (1979).


john k said...

Hi Laura,
Super,and varied list as always.
I loved,this time 'round that you featured several
Universal Noirs many,sadly hard to find.
SHAKEDOWN and PLAYGIRL sound right up my street.
It's such a shame that so many of these Universal Noirs
have not even had a DVD release.
THE MIDNIGHT STORY I need to give another look,I just cannot
say I love the film as much as others (Colin,Blake)
Black & white 'scope is always a plus factor for me 'though.
How wonderful to see a screening with Coleen Miller in the audience.
So glad you enjoyed BRONCO BILLY other Clint flicks I think you
will enjoy are A PERFECT WORLD (with Kevin Costner) and the
I know you probably avoid the Dirty Harry films because of
the violence,but I suggest you give THE ENFORCER a go.
The film is incredibly funny at times with a barrage of
great one liners and Tyne Daley is sensational as Harry's
Interestingly, London's National Film Theater,this May have
a great Eastwood season to celebrate Clint's 90th.
The films are very well chosen and include many classics from
the "Dollar" films to THE MULE.

KC said...

Loved your list Laura. So many things I need to see! I am also a huge Barry Sullivan fan. Have we discussed this before? Between this and Preston, we seem to have similar tastes :-)

Laura said...

Thank you, John! I think you would love SHAKEDOWN and PLAYGIRL, I am hoping maybe we will see some of these Universal noirs from Kino... I'd be interested what you think if you revisit THE MIDNIGHT STORY. I picked up the Region 2 DVD so I can watch it again. It is a beautiful B&W film, sure love the San Francisco locations.

Thank you for the Clint Eastwood recommendations! (You know I love Kevin Costner!) Appreciate it. One of my sons has a four-film Eastwood set including THE ENFORCER so I'll keep it in mind. I also have THE MULE in my watch stack!

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

Best wishes,

Laura said...

KC, I just realized that a comment I left for you a long time ago, right after your comment, never went through -- I must have pushed the wrong button or something! LOL. Just wanted to say I appreciated your comment very much, and I'm not sure we had discussed our mutual regard for Barry Sullivan. It's really fun that we share a liking for relatively lesser-known actors like Sullivan and Preston Foster.

I actually recently went through my collection and made a little stack of the Sullivan films I own which I've not yet seen. (I was also surprised how many of his films I *had* seen -- he had quite a prolific career and I think I'd seen over two dozen of the titles so far.)

Blissful sigh...

Best wishes,