Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2020 - Hal Horn ""

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Film Discoveries of 2020 - Hal Horn

Veteran RPS contributor Hal Horn runs the irreplaceable Horn Section Blog ('reviewing the obscure, overlooked and sometimes the very old').

Also read his previous Discoveries lists for Rupert Pupkin Speaks:

On Twitter @halhorn86

Easily my favorite film discovery of the year, after Warner Archive so kindly made this classic available on DVD for the first time in 2019. Hands down the very best feature film Leon Errol ever starred in, and a great showcase for this unjustly unheralded comedian. With a plot that revolves around the rationing of meat, gas and other necessities, this WWII flick made for uncomfortably familiar viewing during the early lockdown period (when I watched it, last April). Wealthy lingerie tycoon Errol finds his status gets him no favors during wartime. Badly needing more gasoline coupons than he qualifies for, he enlists shady butler Richard Lane (a perfect foil for Leon and a wonderful performance) to get him extra carpoolers. Leon ends up with a houseful of showgirls led by Veda Ann Borg, a lot of explaining to do to wife Lydia Bilbrook, and a much needed business deal with stuffy Clarence Kolb that ends up on shaky ground. Wonderfully paced farce skillfully directed by longtime Errol collaborator Leslie Goodwins; Charles E. Roberts (writer of countless Errol shorts) wrote the clever screenplay with future Academy Award nominee Oscar Brodney (HARVEY). I can't recommend this sophisticated farce highly enough, and I owe writer Max Allan Collins a big thank you for recommending it to me after seeing my Errol series at The Horn Section. If you're a frequent buyer at Warner Archive, by all means check this one out.

Jane Russell as Belle Starr, directed by Allan Dwan (SANDS OF IWO JIMA). Russell's Starr hooks up with the Dalton gang after Bob (Scott Brady) rescues her from a lynching. Predictably, Bob falls for her, and isn't the only one who does as she proves her skill with firearms and also proves to captivate men onstage--among them a banker scheming to trap the Daltons once and for all. Despite the title (Belle poses as a widow from the titular state) it is set in Oklahoma. RKO curio was filmed in 1948 but released four years later; in the interim, co-stars Forrest Tucker and Scott Brady had become bigger names. Despite Russell's presence it has been pretty hard to find, but TCM aired it last year.

Budd Boetticher directed Ray Danton as the legendary prohibition-era gangster. Typical rise from right hand man (Robert Lowery as Arnold Rothstein) to kingpin before the fall. Boetticher and Danton didn't get along, but the latter was well cast and this is one of the more underrated mafia films despite its legendary director. Speaking of, with Boetticher directing we get the always welcome bonus of Karen Steele as Legs' leading lady. There's also early roles for Warren Oates (as Legs' brother) and, in her film debut, Dyan Cannon (credited as Dianne). Very entertaining. Also with Elaine Stewart, Jesse White and Frank deKova. Danton solidified his underworld cred two years later with the titular role in THE GEORGE RAFT STORY, but never quite became a major star; he later found considerable success as a TV director.

LADIES' DAY (1943)
The penultimate film for legendary Lupe Velez co-stars Eddie Albert as a loopy baseball pitcher clearly based on "Dizzy" Dean. Albert is easily distracted by the ladies, and the wives of his teammates have cause for concern once he falls for the lovely Latina. Interesting focus on the player's spouses, played by Iris Adrian (saucy as ever), Patsy Kelly and Joan Barclay. Despite this wrinkle, low-budget baseball flick is no classic, with very unconvincing game footage. Still, Lupe is as charming and watchable as ever. Dane Lussier collaborated with Charles E. Roberts on this one, and ubiquitous Leslie Goodwins (the MEXICAN SPITIRE series) directs Lupe yet again.

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