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6/10
Flynn, doing some 'acting'
22 July 2021
Warning: Spoilers
Erroll Flynn signed a new contract with Jack Warner in 1948 that allowed him to make one film outside of Warner's a year and this was the first one. He got loaned out to MGM for their adaptation of the first part of John Galsworthy's The Forsythe Saga. There were three male roles: a materialistic businessman, (Soames Forsythe), his Bohemian artist cousin, Jolyon Forsythe and a romantic young architect, Philip Bosinney. The lead female roles are Soames wife, Irene, whom he trats like a possession, played by Greer Garson and June Forsythe, Jolyon's daughter who he had abandoned to pursue his painting career, played by young Janet Leigh. She and Bosinney fall in love but Philip, upon meeting Irene, falls even more in love with her, as does Jolyon when he returns home. By the end of it, Philip is dead, Irene has left Soames to be with Jolyon and June has found somebody lese to marry.

It's basically an Edwardian soap opera. But it was considered a 'prestige' property and was given first-rate production values and a star-studded cast but it's also pretty dull going. It was a decidedly not as good a film nor as well acted as "The Adventures of Don Juan", but it's the sort of film that could burnish an actor's reputation and this no doubt is why he wanted to be in it - and to play against type as Soames. I've read one account that he was given his choice of playing Joylon or Philip but insisted on playing Soames or that Walter Pidgeon was to play Soames, for which he seemed perfect, while Flynn played Joylon but both actors wanted to play against type so they decided to switch roles. It's been suggested that playing either character would have been too much like the composer Flynn had just played in 'Escape Me Never'. But he'd also played a character not unlike Soames in 'Cry Wolf'.

Whatever, Flynn certainly comes off the best of the men as both Pidgeon and Robert Young are too old for their roles and lack the romantic qualities of their characters qualities. Young is also burdened with what appears to be an ill-fitting wig. Flynn may not have been much like Soames but he plays him perfectly, imbuing him with human qualities the script didn't suggest. He's legitimately in love with Irene but doesn't seem to know how to express it and is legitimately hurt when he loses her. He not a bad guy: he's an inadequate guy and Flynn presents him as a tragic figure. By this time anyone who did not think that Errol Flynn was a skilled actor had not been paying attention.

Although Soames and Irene have a decidedly imperfect relationship, Flynn got along famously with Garson, who wrote an affectionate forward to the book 'The Films of Errol Flynn' by Tony Thomas, Rudy Behlmer and Clifford McCarthy.
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The Crown: Moondust (2019)
Season 3, Episode 7
8/10
A really well-done drama but....
20 July 2021
The writing, acting, directing and editing of this episode are superb, especially Tobias Menzies tremendous performance as Prince Phillip in a mid-life crisis. But....

I agree that it's disrespectful of the astronauts, who are portrayed as if they were teenagers from a frat house. Compare this Neil Armstrong to the one in the movie "First Man". And is it fair to expect them to be 'Gods' and to be disappointed when they aren't?

Does faith improve the moon's decor? It - and the universe - are what they are, regardless of what humans choose to believe.

I recall hearing that Prince Philip had been given a tour of NASA's facilities and got some bad publicity for asking what the point of the thing was. The trivia section informs us that basically none of this ever happened, save for the actual moon landing and that the prince actually showed no unusal interest in it. If that's true, how much trust do you have in the veracity of the rest of the series? Is every scene made up from whole cloth?
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9/10
Flynn returns to his roots
20 July 2021
Warning: Spoilers
This was Errol Flynn's first Swashbuckler in 8 years and is one of his few post-war films that can rank with his pre-war classics. It's an entertaining combination of humor and dramatic conflict that is a lot of fun all the way.

Much of the humor centers around Don Juan's love life, with obvious references to Flynn's own reputation. In the first sequence he climbs to a balcony like Romeo and asserts his undying love for an attractive lady - until she mentions that she's married. His enthusiasm wanes but he is unable to leave before the husband shows up. Flynn defeats him in a sword fighting duel without killing him and leaves with a troop of soldiers galloping after him. Some dialog from this scene: Don Juan: I have loved you since the beginning of time.

Catherine: But you only met me yesterday... Don Juan: Why, that was when time began!

Catherine: But you've made love to so many women.

Don Juan: Catherine, an artist may paint a thousand canvasses before achieving one work of art, would you deny a lover the same practice?

Cecil: Who is this?

Don Juan: (to Catherine) You tell him.

Later in a similar situation: Count D'Orsini: (finding Don Juan with his fiancee) You'll not get away so easily, senor. You're caught!

Don Juan: (sardonically) The story of my life!

These scenes are funnier than anything in Flynn's 'official' comedies and he appears to be having fun playing them. You wonder, though, what was really going on his mind. Did he at some level, resent the constant references to his love life that appear thought his 1940's films? Still, they add a lot of entertainment value to this film.

The central story of the film is taken deadly seriously. Robert Douglas, (in life a good friend and drinking buddy of Flynn's), as the Duke DeLorca, is as icy a villain as Flynn ever faced. At the start he's maneuvered his way to be the real power behind the throne, which is occupied by a weak King, (Romney Brent) and a strong Queen, (Viveca Lindflors), with whom Don Juan falls in love. Don Juan's sudden show of true love and patriotism upon his return to Spain also taps into Flynn's personality: for all his love of enjoying life, he believed in things, too. He could identify with struggles to do what was right. And, as with 'Silver River', it's easy to read our current troubles into the plot of this old film, which is about the usurpation of power and rebellion against is, (and both sides would see themselves as the good guys).

He is appointed the head of the crown's fencing academy, where he is able to get to know the patriotic young soldiers of the realm. Eventually, DeLorca, with the help of his henchmen Don Roderigo, (Douglas Kennedy, who would be promoted to head villain two years later in 'Montana'), and, of all people, Raymond Burr as Alvarez, the Captain of the guard, decides to take total power. Flynn opposes him with a band of loyal swordsmen, his sidekick Leporello and Don Sebastian, the King's Fool.

First he has to free himself and Count de Polan, (Robert Warwick), an ambassador with proof of DeLorca's treachery, from the dungeons. In doing so, he takes on the pudgy Burr in a swordfight that ends badly for the future Perry Mason. It's revenge of a sort for Flynn, whose first Hollywood role was as a corpse in a Perry Mason film, "The Case of the Curious Bride", (1935). Then he faces first Roderigo, then DeLorca on the magnificent grand staircase built for the film and an homage to a similar set built for Flynn buddy John Barrymore's 1926 film of Don Juan. He dispatches both in an exciting climax, ended with another homage to the Barrymore film, where the hero dramatically leaps from halfway up the staircase to finish off the villain. (In this Flynn is doubled by the great Jock Mahoney, who became an actor and starred in TV's "Yancy Derringer".)

Stock footage from two of Flynn's earlier films, 'The Adventures of Robin Hood' and 'The private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex' are used in the opening sequences and there is one amusing moment when a figure that is obviously, (to those who have seen that film), Flynn as Essex rides under a bridge, to be followed shortly afterwards by Flynn as Don Juan, riding under what is clearly intended to represent the same bridge.

The swordplay in this film is of a high quality. Flynn seems totally assured in all of his movements and strikes like a cobra. Yet he doesn't kill anybody until the villains at the end, preferring to knock them over or spank them with his sword, which is actually more impressive. He seems to have learned a lot about fencing from his pal Fred Cavens since his early swashbucklers.

This was Flynn's 13th and last film with his great friend Alan Hale. In the final scene they encounter a beautiful lady in a coach after Don Juan has sworn off romance. The lady is played by Flynn wife of the time, Nora Eddington, (who divorced him the next year). It ends with the best line in the film: "My dear friend, there's a little bit of Don Juan in every man, and since I am Don Juan, there must be more of it in me!" Indeed.
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7/10
All that Glitters is Korngold
16 July 2021
Warning: Spoilers
"Escape Me Never' is a follow-up to the 1943 film 'The Constant Nymph' from the same author and everything I read about it suggested that it's the inferior of the two films so I decided to watch both before writing my review. The two films have a lot in common: Margaret Kennedy wrote the novels on which both are based and the things she seems most interested in are love triangles involving sophisticated and mature upper-class women and unsophisticated and immature lower-class women, (with the latter winning the sympathies of the audience and of the male lead), impoverished composers, classical symphonic music, the Alps and London. However I agree that the former film is much the better of the two.

Both were to involve Errol Flynn but Edmund Golding, the director of TCN wanted Charles Boyer and Flynn's recent statutory rape trial made a story of his character's romance with a teenage girl problematic. However Flynn plays the role of the bohemian composer in EMN, four years later. I think he's quite good in this, especially in the early scenes where he just seems to be enjoying life and people. This might have been the role closest to his own personality. He later explains his view of life: "It's a bad business, thinking. The worst mistake anyone can make in life is taking it seriously. It's too unpredictable, too haphazard." When Eleanor Parker, playing the more materialistic upper-class lover, suggests that a music is based on "order and purpose" and that happiness is "getting what you want", Flynn replies "Who knows what they want?" it seems to have bene the theme of his life.

But at her insistence, he moves to London to work on a ballet that he dedicates to her. The scenes there become dreary due to the climate and the pressure the carefree Flynn character now feels to create his ballet. They kind of resemble the portion of 'The Sisters' nine years earlier where he is the writer husband of the ever-suffering Bette Davis. The difference is that in that film he's not a very good or very motivated writer and falls apart. Here his problem is that he turns from his true love, played by Ida Lupino toward the more beautiful and wealthier Parker before realizing how confined life with her would be and coming to his senses when Lupino's child dies.

The plot comes off more as melodrama than drama and is secondary to the lushly romantic music of the great Eric Wolfgang Korngold. Flynn performs well but Parker's character is one-dimensional and Lupino is unconvincing as a waif. She's also saddled with one of the worst hairdos a studio hairdresser ever gave a lead actress. The front of her hair is teased unto what looked like an Alp while the back of her hair is pulled down. It's so ridiculous looking that it's a distraction. And, while Korngold's music dominates both films, EMN is not really about composing and there's no statement about the music being made as there is, very strongly in TCN. Both films suffer from the lack of location filming. The Alps are back projected in EMN and made to look like Sergeant's York's Tennessee farm in TCN. Flynn would be in the real Alps making the famous abandoned film "William Tell" seven years later and Ms. Parker would be there eighteen years later in another film devoted to "The Sound of Music". Both films look a lot better than these two.

'The Constant Nymph' becomes Korngold's statement about the battle between 20th century orchestral music, as typified by George Gershwin, who found music in the noise of modern society, such as the clattering noises a train made, and the romantic music of the previous century, which emphasized emotion and melody. He apparently sees modern music as rather angry as Boyer bangs on the piano, virtually ignoring a beautiful melody he composed when under the influence of the teenaged Joan Fontaine. When she comes back into his life, he is able to find the emotions that inspired the melody and is able to convert the cacophony into the beautiful tone-poem that climaxes the film, "Tomorrow".

The main characters are much better written and performed in TCN than EMN. Fontaine, not one of my favorite actresses, is very good here as a child-woman, something he specialized in at the time, (she was actually 4 years older than Alexis Smith but you can't tell it). Her death at the end of the film, from a heart condition while listening to the music she inspired is legitimately moving and she got a deserved Oscar nomination for her role. But the key is Smith, as statuesque as ever but here given a role she can sink her teeth into and she's great as what should be an unsympathetic character. She's struggling to keep her husband and to keep her marriage together as he falls in love with his teenage muse and the decision to not make Smith's character a villain was a rare and excellent one. Charles Boyer is great as the acerbic composer who finds himself being nurtured by his young admirer. The drama, after a slow start, nearly becomes the equal of the music. But the music, (readily available on the internet), dominates both films.
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9/10
'The Constant Nymph' and 'Escape Me Never'
16 July 2021
Warning: Spoilers
"Escape Me Never' is a follow-up to the 1943 film 'The Constant Nymph' from the same author and everything I read about it suggested that it's the inferior of the two films so I decided to watch both before writing my review. The two films have a lot in common: Margaret Kennedy wrote the novels on which both are based and the things she seems most interested in are love triangles involving sophisticated and mature upper-class women and unsophisticated and immature lower-class women, (with the latter winning the sympathies of the audience and of the male lead), impoverished composers, classical symphonic music, the Alps and London. However I agree that the former film is much the better of the two.

Both were to involve Errol Flynn but Edmund Golding, the director of TCN wanted Charles Boyer and Flynn's recent statutory rape trial made a story of his character's romance with a teenage girl problematic. However Flynn plays the role of the bohemian composer in EMN, four years later. I think he's quite good in this, especially in the early scenes where he just seems to be enjoying life and people. This might have been the role closest to his own personality. He later explains his view of life: "It's a bad business, thinking. The worst mistake anyone can make in life is taking it seriously. It's too unpredictable, too haphazard." When Eleanor Parker, playing the more materialistic upper-class lover, suggests that a music is based on "order and purpose" and that happiness is "getting what you want", Flynn replies "Who knows what they want?" it seems to have bene the theme of his life.

But at her insistence, he moves to London to work on a ballet that he dedicates to her. The scenes there become dreary due to the climate and the pressure the carefree Flynn character now feels to create his ballet. They kind of resemble the portion of 'The Sisters' nine years earlier where he is the writer husband of the ever-suffering Bette Davis. The difference is that in that film he's not a very good or very motivated writer and falls apart. Here his problem is that he turns from his true love, played by Ida Lupino toward the more beautiful and wealthier Parker before realizing how confined life with her would be and coming to his senses when Lupino's child dies.

The plot comes off more as melodrama than drama and is secondary to the lushly romantic music of the great Eric Wolfgang Korngold. Flynn performs well but Parker's character is one-dimensional and Lupino is unconvincing as a waif. She's also saddled with one of the worst hairdos a studio hairdresser ever gave a lead actress. The front of her hair is teased unto what looked like an Alp while the back of her hair is pulled down. It's so ridiculous looking that it's a distraction. And, while Korngold's music dominates both films, EMN is not really about composing and there's no statement about the music being made as there is, very strongly in TCN. Both films suffer from the lack of location filming. The Alps are back projected in EMN and made to look like Sergeant's York's Tennessee farm in TCN. Flynn would be in the real Alps making the famous abandoned film "William Tell" seven years later and Ms. Parker would be there eighteen years later in another film devoted to "The Sound of Music". Both films look a lot better than these two.

'The Constant Nymph' becomes Korngold's statement about the battle between 20th century orchestral music, as typified by George Gershwin, who found music in the noise of modern society, such as the clattering noises a train made, and the romantic music of the previous century, which emphasized emotion and melody. He apparently sees modern music as rather angry as Boyer bangs on the piano, virtually ignoring a beautiful melody he composed when under the influence of the teenaged Joan Fontaine. When she comes back into his life, he is able to find the emotions that inspired the melody and is able to convert the cacophony into the beautiful tone-poem that climaxes the film, "Tomorrow".

The main characters are much better written and performed in TCN than EMN. Fontaine, not one of my favorite actresses, is very good here as a child-woman, something he specialized in at the time, (she was actually 4 years older than Alexis Smith but you can't tell it). Her death at the end of the film, from a heart condition while listening to the music she inspired is legitimately moving and she got a deserved Oscar nomination for her role. But the key is Smith, as statuesque as ever but here given a role she can sink her teeth into and she's great as what should be an unsympathetic character. She's struggling to keep her husband and to keep her marriage together as he falls in love with his teenage muse and the decision to not make Smith's character a villain was a rare and excellent one. Charles Boyer is great as the acerbic composer who finds himself being nurtured by his young admirer. The drama, after a slow start, nearly becomes the equal of the music. But the music, (readily available on the internet), dominates both films.
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Cry Wolf (1947)
7/10
Flynn trying to punch his way out of his image
12 July 2021
Warning: Spoilers
At this point in his career, Flynn was welcoming any role that punched a hole in his swashbuckler image: he wanted to prove himself as an actor. Here he does a smooth job of menacing Barbara Stanwyck, one of the top actresses in the business, as the moody and mysterious head of a rich family into which Stanwyck has recently married, only to find that her husband has allegedly died. He's also a famous scientist with a mysterious laboratory from which screams can be heard in the night. Yet he seems well-mannered if confrontational in his dealings with Stanwyck and even stars to romance her, although this seems more of a fact-finding mission than a love affair. Stanwyck joins forces with the younger half-sister of Flynn's character, played by Geraldine Brooks and finds the younger half-brother, her husband, played by Richard Basehart, (this was the second film for each). It's interesting that Stanwyck tells Flynn that Basehart married her because he felt that she had the strength to stand up to him and Basehart didn't.

Flynn has difficulty seeming cold and intimidating. Part of this serves the plot, (see below), but it also seems a limitation of the actor. His voice is just too gentle and reassuring and he's prettier than his co-star. Even lighting tricks aren't enough to suggest that Stanwyck is in danger in his presence. This takes the edge off the mystery of the film. The picture seems influenced by "Rebecca" as there's a head of housekeeping that seems very much like Mrs. Danvers, although Stanwyck is a much stronger character than Joan Fontaine's. You wonder how Flynn might have done as Maxim De Winter.

Spoilers: You can't discuss a mystery film without discussing the mystery so I've separated this part of the review from the rest of it. The story ultimately becomes about that old, discredited phenomenon, "inherited insanity", which both Brooks and Basehart suffer from. Flynn has been so strict with them to protect them from society and society from them. Both die in falls related to their condition by the end of the film and Flynn and Stanwyck are free to develop their own relationship, giving the film the requisite happy ending and making Flynn's performance seem more logical in light of the way things turned out. But we aren't supposed to think that is a likely ending through most of the film and yet it doesn't come as a big surprise.
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6/10
No classic but goes down easy
12 July 2021
Warning: Spoilers
This is the best of Flynn's comedies. He's a good light comedian but a light one. He'd make the top 10 in that regard in Hollywood at the time and maybe the top 5 but it wasn't what he was best at. Here he's an artist who paints Alberto Vargas-like pin-up girls who has been very popular during the war. He's married to the gorgeous Eleanor Parker and has a pretty little girl, (Patti Brady) who adores him but things haven't worked out, largely due to the amount of time he spends with his models and they are separated. It's Patti's fondest hope to get her parents back together and, underneath the surface of their misunderstandings, it's obvious they want the same thing.

There are several sub-plots that all come together at the end. Patti has responded to a plea to write to soldiers posted around the world and become a pen pal with a marine played by Forrest Tucker. But she's sent him a picture of her mother painted by her father and when Tucker shows up, he thinks Eleanor is his pen pal. Meanwhile Eleanor is planning on marrying her stuff-shirt lawyer, played by Donald Woods. Flynn's latest model, played by Peggy Knudsen, (Eddie Mars' hard-boiled girlfriend in 'The Big Sleep'), has her eye on Flynn and keeps showing up at the wrong time, as does Flynn's best friend, played by Tom D'Andrea and C. A. "Cuddles" Sakall as a comic waiter and Barry Fitzgerald's more subtle brother, Arthur Shields, as a friendly policeman.

It all gets straightened out in the end and the fantasy of every child from a broken home, that Mommy and Daddy will get back together, comes to pass, (sorry for the spoiler). The comedy is played smoothly and not overdone, except perhaps in Wood's case, (he seems to be imitating Cary Grant from 'Bringing Up Baby'). Brady isn't excessively cute. She seemed to have potential as an actress but ended her career a few years later at age 14. Hattie McDaniel plays a member of the household but doesn't wear a maid's costume. I wondered about the significance of that. Even, Sakall, who I normally find hard to take, only does just enough to get the laugh. Knudsen has an icy beauty but a persona to match, which limited her to B movies and TV episodes after a good start. Parker a much under-rated actress, proves herself a good 'reactor' to the comic turns of others and of the script. Humphrey Bogart does a voice-over when Flynn tries to imitate -and spoof- his tough guy image, which is interesting as Bogart reportedly loathed Flynn. But if you are under contract to Jack Warner and he asks you to do something, you do it.

It's a mild amusement at best but goes down smoothly.
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Silver River (1948)
9/10
Flynn's best post-war film
30 June 2021
Warning: Spoilers
This is my choice for Errol Flynn's best post war film. It's often dismissed by reviewers and film historians, but it combines him most complex character with elements of a traditional Flynn film: action, a great musical score and a big ending, if an unconventional one.

We go back to the Civil War, which Flynn had visited twice before in 'Santa Fe Trail' and 'They Died With Boots On'. Here, Flynn, (looking a decade older than he did in those films), is a Union Captain in charge of the Army's payroll, which is a million dollars, all in one wagon. When JEB Stuart's cavalry approaches, (Max Steiner plays the action theme he wrote for Santa Fe Trail in which Flynn played Stuart for Stuart's charge in this film), this Flynn, named Mike McComb, hightails it out of there with his sidekick 'Pistol' (Tom DeAndrea). When they realize they can't out-run Stuart, McComb decides to burn the money so the Confederates can't use it to finance their war effort. They are rescued when the Union cavalry, (George Custer? Steiner doesn't tell us), drives away the rebels. But the Army is unsympathetic. All they can see is all that burned cash and besides, McComb was told not to leave his position. The idea of improvising based on charging battlefield conditions isn't in the 'book'. McComb and Pistol are cashiered from the Army and Mike tells his lawyer that he thanks the Army for the lesson: from now on, when anyone gets pushed around, he'll do the pushing. Flynn's Mike McComb will now be the most cynical and opportunistic hero that he has played, (with the possible exception of Jean Picard in "Uncertain Glory"). McComb is perhaps closer to Flynn's real character than Captain Blood, Robin Hood, Geoffrey Thorpe or any of the idealists he's played in the past.

He and Pistol travel west and McComb becomes a successful gambler with Banjo Sweeney, (Barton MacLane) as an even more ruthless but also more inept rival. MacLane took over Humphrey Bogart's job as the lead heavy at Warner's after Humphrey Bogart reformed and became a hero. When Bogart, Jimmy Cagney or Eddie Robinson was playing a guy who straddles the fine line between being a good guy and a bad guy, they needed a 'worse guy' to make them sympathetic and MacLane was often the 'worse guy'. He performs that function for Flynn here.

McComb also encounters Georgia Moore, (Ann Sheridan), who, in the grand tradition of Flynn's on-screen paramours, immediately hates him. She's bringing some mining equipment from the east and has hired wagons to ship it to the mine she and her husband, Stanley, (Bruce Bennett), are working. McComb wants those wagons to haul gambling equipment to Silver City. He gets their owner into a poker game and wins them, then takes them for his own purposes. McComb sells the wagons to the Moores in exchange for a partnership in the mine. He then sets up a gambling house and a bank that allows him to suck in the wealth the miners produce.

But he wants Georgia for his wife and convinces Stanley Moore to scout out the Black Rock Range without telling him of an Indian uprising. Moore is killed and McComb uses his charm to win over his widow. He then builds a marble palace for himself and hosts President Grant in a lavish ball. He's made it as big as it gets. Grant comments that he got thrown out the army twice.

Banjo Sweeney organizes a rival trust to do battle with McComb. Mike has aliened so many people that his organization started to come apart. The most important loose brick is his alcoholic attorney, Plato Beck, another fine performance by one of my favorite character actors, Thomas Mitchell. The last straw for Beck is the maneuver to send Stanley to his death, which he compares to King David sending his trusted lieutenant, Uriah, to his death so David could have his wife, Bathsheba.

Mike McComb, like Kirk Douglas's Chuck Tatum in the 1951 classic "Ace in the Hole", (see my review) is a rat but not a reptile: he's still got some warm blood in his veins and can be persuaded to feel guilt by Beck. He wasn't unfeeling, just mad at the world. He had told Georgia that he'd "just heard" of the Indian uprising and led a group of men to find him and bring him back, only to find out that they were too late, (in a nice bit scene positioning, the men with him ride down a hill to examine the body and confirm that Stanley is dead while Flynn remains above them, afraid to deal with the reality of what he has done. (Bruce Bennett played miners who died at the hands of the natives in two 1948 films, the other being "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre".)

Sweeny finally gets the upper hand on McComb and, with help from a drunken Plato, forces a run on the bank that ruins him. This puts banjo in a position to corner the silver market and become the colossus Mike wanted to be. Meanwhile Plato Beck has sobered up and is trying to get elected Senator where he will fight against both McComb and Sweeny and anyone like them. He's proving too popular and Sweeney makes the mistake of assassinating Plato while he's making a speech. He and his men then ride to Silver City.

McComb witnesses the event and Georgia's pain at Plato's death and Mike's involvement in her husband's death. He's had enough of being what he has become and what he has wrought. There follows one of the remarkable scenes in any of Flynn's films. He admits to the crowd what's he's done and, having taken this mea culpa, wants to know what they are going to do about Sweeney and his gang. The mob wants to lynch him. McComb leads them, not in a charge but on an inexorable march to Silver City, where he directs them to split up and enter the city from every street to trap Sweeney and his henchmen in the town. We then see a montage of shots of horsemen galloping down a western street to escape the mob, then turning back and seeing another root while an angry mob on foot marches forward. Eventually the horsemen are trapped in the main plaza and pulled from their horses. This is all done to an impressive slow march composed by Max Steiner, a piece as impressive in its own way as the higher-tempo march he did a dozen years before for 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'. The music moves through the scene like a steamroller that grows larger with each turn of the wheels until reaching a climax when the bad guys are trapped.

Here McComb completes his rebirth as a complete human being. He convinces the crowd not to lower themselves to Sweeney's level: put them on trial and punish them legally. He promises to reopen the mines and get the "silver river" flowing again. He's still a rogue: he muses that he had a perfect opportunity to shoot Banjo Sweeney in the back. Georgia tells him that he "hasn't changed a bit". But he's come full circle and is again the Mike McComb he was when entrusted with all that payroll money at the beginning of the movie. Georgia climbs aboard his horse and they literally ride into the sunset.

A decade after this Warner Brothers had entered the TV realm and prepared a show called "Maverick". They outfitted James Garner in outfits Flynn had worn for 'San Antonio' and 'Silver River', (the black jacket is clearly from the latter). The opening episode is called "The War of the Silver Kings" and features frequent Flynn colleague John Litel as an alcoholic judge who sobers up, regains his self-respect and runs for office. Maverick comes into town virtually broke but through a series of deceptions and other maneuvers winds up starting a mining company. One of the characters is called "Big Mike McComb". Warner's never lost an opportunity to recycle their movies into their TV shows.

I'm a Biden man and when Joe won the 2020 election but Trump was making noises that he wouldn't leave I had fantasies of Biden leading a march on Washington with the ending similar to what happens at the end of this film, (hopefully with Steiner's music). That turned out to be unnecessary but Trump's supporters had the same vision. (I don't know what music they were listening to.) It's often said that "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." The statement is supposed inspire good men into action. It's also often said that "You can't tell the players without a scorecard". Everyone tends to, or comes to, view themselves as the good guys and those who oppose them as the bad guys. You need more than an old saying to send you off into the right direction.
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San Antonio (1945)
8/10
Not an empty horse
29 June 2021
Warning: Spoilers
People think that Errol Flynn's post-war films were valueless because they weren't the classics of his pre-war and wartime period. They aren't shown on TV as much and the end comes with the grade Z 'Cuban Rebel Girls'. It creates a picture of a continuous decline from greatness to post war mediocrity to total embarrassment. But Flynn made a number of watchable films after the war and a few that were more than that. And the only film he made on the 'Cuban Rebel Girls' level other than that one was his first film, 'In the Wake of the Bounty', in 1933.

Solders returning from the war didn't want to see war films: they'd had enough of that. They wanted to see the swashbucklers, westerns and musicals they remembered. So Warner's put Flynn into this A-level technicolor western, one that isn't well-remembered today but bears comparison with "Dodge City", the 1939 epic, also in technicolor that is praised as one of Flynn's best films but isn't, in my judgement, any better than 'San Antonio'. I actually thought this might be a sequel to 'Dodge City' but Flynn was 'Wade Hatton' in the earlier film and 'Clay Hardin' in this one. Max Steiner even gives us a whiff of his musical score for Dodge City at the beginning of San Antonio. The ever-reliable John Litel is a sacrificial lamb in both films, killed by the bad guys, causing Flynn to seek revenge. This one doesn't have Olivia De Havilland, who was on to other things. Instead Alexis Smith does her slightly arrogant, statuesque beauty who thaws out and then melts in Errol's arms thing. Flynn team of comic sidekicks, Alan Hale Big Boy Williams sat this one out. But the sets, especially the larger-than-possible saloon with the full stage look awfully familiar.

On of the conceits of Hollywood films is that our problems can be traced to the nefarious activities of individual bad guys and that what we need is heroes to defeat them and thus solve the problems they create. In reality, the fault is not in our stars but in ourselves. We allow bad situations to develop because of our apathy or our foolishness and they require intelligence and concerted action on a broad front to get us out of the messes we create. At the beginning of this film a narrator says 1877 is "the year of the great break-up" of the cattle drives, when "Outlaws of the wide open west learned how easy it is to raid the lonely herds in this country where the ranch houses are 20 miles apart. The thieves hit hard and often, stampeding the wild cattle. Rustlers gathered from the length of the frontier for the easy kill and the range is without defense. Night after night they drive the cattle off by the hundreds that mount into the thousands and the vast herds are melting away, ruining the men who built Texas. The out-numbered ranchers have fought back but the savage range war has smashed their leaders across the Mexican line into exile." One of them is Flynn, who has collected proof that one man is behind all this: the stone faced, uncharismatic Paul Kelly. He's got a packet of papers that prove this. Litel tells Flynn that Texas is full of "5,000 wanted men" but all we see of them is small group of henchmen.

Flynn takes them all on and wins in the end, coolly shooting down one henchmen, (played by 'B' western star Tom Tyler and then opening his gun and blowing the smoke out of it with his breath. But he tired the legal angle, bringing the #2 villain, (Victor Francen, a much more interesting actor than Kelly), to trial for Litel's death, (which cost him the now stolen 'proof'). The Army appointed Hardin temporary sheriff of San Antonio to clear things up while they leave to fight the Indians, just as Wade Hatton was named sheriff of Dodge City to clean up that town. There was a legendary, huge barroom brawl in the former film. In this one there's a full-scale battle on the same set where Flynn, suddenly with an army of gunmen of his own, takes on Kelly and Francen in a western Armageddon that threatens to destroy the town. It ends with the best scene in either film, a shoot-out in a darkened, ghostly Alamo. At least it should have ended there. An unnecessary chase into the dessert followed by a punch-out where Kelly hits his head on a rock was tacked on. Not exactly Basil Rathbone getting run through and tumbling down the staircase.

There's plenty of action and plenty of good dialog, including a couple of references to "empty" horses, probably inserted by Flynn as it was a favorite phrase, (meaning riderless), of this least favorite director, Michael Curtiz, who directed - you guessed it - Dodge City. The film also has some comic relief from S. Z. "Cuddles" Sakall, an acquired taste I never acquired. At least the cattle can move northward now, thanks to Errol Flynn. Were you not entertained?
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9/10
Flynn's last great film
17 June 2021
Warning: Spoilers
'Objective Burma' was a highly popular but also highly controversial film and a very good one about the war in Burma. The controversy was that the heroes are American soldiers, (including the Tasmanian Flynn, whose character, Captain Nelson, says he is from Maine - I wonder if he ever met Hawkeye Pierce or Jessica Fletcher), in a theater of war that dominated by the British, Indians and Chinese. Not that the action could not have happened as presented here: the story is based on American General Frank Merrill's 'Marauders', who made a name for themselves fighting in the Burmese jungle. But it angered Winston Churchill and British audiences, who walked out on the film, causing it to be re-released in 1952 with a prologue that made it clear that Lord Mountbatten was running this campaign from India and showed a picture of Ord Wingate, who had been doing the same sort of fighting long before Merrill and his Marauders showed up.

One more thing to think about regarding this controversy: All countries, in making films primarily intended for their domestic audience, are going to feature heroes of their countries. It's just that American films were getting shown all over the world, so these films seem to be emphasizing American heroics at the expense of other nations. Warner Brothers could have made a movie about Ord Wingate but would it have sold as well? And how many American heroes are there in British war films, such as "In Which We Serve", (1942)? Yes there are American heroes in "The Bridge on the River Kwai" (1957) and "The Guns of Navarone" (1961) but those were films intended for an international audience, of which the American market was a big part.

The story is relatively simple, although the mission it describes starts simple and gets complicated. Flynn's company is to parachute into Burma and destroy a radar station to open the way for the invasion of Burma by allied forces. They accomplish this fairly easily, (probably too easily), but plans to air-lift them back out at an abandoned airfield, (why would it be abandoned and unguarded in wartime?), have to be aborted because of the arrival of a Japanese force so the men are going to have to make their way out on foot. There are two plans for getting out and it's unclear which would be more likely to be successful so Flynn splits his forces and uses both plans. One group meets with disaster. The other survives but is running out of food, water, ammo and sanity with the Japanese closing in. Just as things look bleak the invasion begins and they get rescued.

Flynn character, so complicated in the previous year's 'Uncertain Glory', is very uncomplicated here. He's a purely good guy and a low-key leader that gets his men to follow him with humane concern for them, (while they are inhumanely mowing down the Japanese), as well as a confident attitude that waivers but never vanishes and some good humor. It's not the sort of performance that wins awards but it carries the mission and movie to a successful conclusion.

A strong musical score by Franz Waxman emphasizes the drama but also the heroism of the cast, even as they underplay that aspect of their roles. The film is somewhat marred by an excessive amount of talk by the men, (who would have remained as silent as possible to avoid detection. There's a lot of talk about where they come from, where they'd rather be and what they'd like to be doing. Would that help morale or degrade it? Particularly irritating is George Tobias, normally one of my favorite character actors, who does the "I'm from New York" schtick to the limit, with a constant line of unfunny patter.

This was one of those Flynn films that was shown by my local station when I was a kid and I've seen it several times since. I recall it as opening the way the trailer does, with Henry Hull's war correspondent reading an account of the mission that could only have been submitted after its completion. He then bridges scenes with his narration - and then dies before the mission is complete. That really shocked me as a kid- the narrator is dead! But the DVD version I now have has no narration by Hull's character. It does have the added-on prolong with Mountbatten and Wingate so Hull's narration must have been sacrificed to the new UK-friendly 1952 version.

It could be argued that this was Errol Flynn's last great film, although it certainly wasn't his last good one. It's also Flynn last film made during World War II and his last taking place during that war, other than the highly obscure and forgotten 1951 film 'Hello God'. After this it was back to westerns and swashbucklers, along with some further attempts at 'serious acting'.

Two ironies of Flynn being in this film- it takes place in the area of the world Flynn grew up in, although he was one the other side of Indochina, (and it was shot in California at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden). He had volunteered to be a guide to forces fighting in New Guinea and other islands in that area. Instead, he was leading a fictional campaign in Burma. During the filming, he wrote his second book, "Showdown" about his adventures in New Guinea in the early 30's. The other irony is that Errol's son, Sean, disappeared in Cambodia while covering the Vietnam War as a photojournalist and has never been found. He, like his father in this film, was stuck behind enemy lines. But life, unlike the movies, doesn't always have happy endings.
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9/10
Flynn's 'Casablanca'
17 June 2021
Warning: Spoilers
Flynn's run of serious war dramas continued with this film, which contains perhaps his best performance. It's his answer to Casablanca, as he plays a self-involved man reluctant to get involved in the war effort who, to his surprise is drawn into it to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country. He's both an anti-hero and a hero.

He plays a career criminal who became a murderer when a night watchman challenged him and is killed in a scuffle. Paul Lukas plays an inspector for the Sûreté who has made a career of bringing the elusive Flynn to justice. He's finally got him and Errol is sentenced to the guillotine. It's an important plot point that Flynn things that this is a particularly cruel and inhuman way of execution. He's spared of it when an allied bombing run destroys his place of execution and allow him to escape.

There's a wonderful scene where he arrives at the apartment of an old comrade who has escaped arrest, (Sheldon Leonard), and convinces him to get him some ID and a passport as well spending money at the threat of exposure. While Sheldon is out, reluctantly caving into this blackmail, Flynn uses his old charm to steal the man's girlfriend. But Lucas catches up to him, (and the girlfriend), and proceeds to take the handcuffed Flynn back to his place of execution.

There has been a commando raid aided by the French underground to blow up a key bridge with a train full of German soldiers on it and the Nazis have decided that unless the man responsible is produced, they will execute 100 French civilians from a nearby town as hostages. Lukas and Flynn hear about this and Erroll suggests that he surrender to the gestapo claiming to be the saboteur and they will execute him by firing squad, which he says would be a better way to go than the guillotine. Besides the Nazi deadline won't be for three days. Surely Flynn would deserve three more days of life in return for his sacrifice and those lives. Lukas suspects that Flynn doesn't care about the 100 people just wants to buy time to find a way to escape but he retains, even after a life chasing criminals, enough believe in humanity to eventually give in and try the plan. Part of it is to announce the death of Flynn's character in a shoot-out with Lukas, since Flynn could not have been at the bridge at the right time to sabotage it. That means that if Flynn can escape, he can't be punished for his old crimes, since he's dead.

They spend some time in the small town from which the hostages were taken and Flynn finds himself romancing a lovely young innocent whose brother is one of the hostages, played by Jean Sullivan, a dancer breaking into movies. Meanwhile Lukas takes Flynn into a church where he confesses not to the priest but to Lukas, claiming responsibility to several famous crimes. But he's just playing a joke on Lukas, who comes to realize after his initial excitement that Flynn could not have committed at least one of the crimes and probably didn't commit any of them. Flynn's little joke erodes Lukas's confidence that Flynn intends to go through with this but when Lukas comes down with a serious illness, Flynn is able to escape. He encounters Sullivan who wants to come away with him. He cares enough for her to be dubious that this would be good for her. Then they discuss the hostages and Flynn cynically dismisses having any sympathy for them, declaring that "This is war" and people are going to die in wars. She pleads with him for understanding. He agrees to meet with her before leaving, then disappears. Lukas has returned home and is explaining what happened to his family and how he should never have trusted Flynn. Then Errol walks in the door to surrender himself and they go off together to turn him in to the Nazis. Lukas meets Sullivan at the rendezvous. She asks him what she should think of Flynn. He replies, "He was a Frenchman".

The mood and photography are appropriate to the downbeat story. Lukas is excellent as the dogged policeman not quite ready to give up on his fellow man. Sullivan is appropriately winsome. One wishes her screen career was a greater success - she is known more today as a dancer. But Flynn is perfect in this role. He remains in character every second, even when he doesn't have any lines. Much of the performance comes in looks on his face. He thinks his way through the role and every thought is registered in his face. He often looks to the side when others are talking as if to spot and escape route. He's equally convincing when expressing his new-found idealism and regret for his past life and his cynical reject of the very same emotions. I leave it to the viewer to decide how likely his final decision seems. But you can't end the movie with him just going on his merry way.

Flynn may have had some insight into the dodgy nature of his character. He was still so powerful at the box office at this time that he got a new, highly favorable contract from Jack Warner that allowed him to set up his own production company, (one of the earliest of the sound-era stars to do so), and choose his own projects and co-workers. He invited his favorite director, Raoul Walsh, (who did this and many other Flynn films), to join him as a partner but Walsh declined, "as he didn't like some of the less than ethical aspects of the plans. The company - Thomson Productions- was formed with an eye on early liquidation and the taking of capital gains." (From the Films of Errol Flynn by Tony Thomas, Rudy Behmler and Clifford McCarthy.)
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7/10
Northern Pursuit to the 49th Parallel
27 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
Errol Flynn, after his comic turn in "Thank Your Lucky Stars", was back to fighting the bad guys, this time in northern Canada. "Northern Pursuit" is often compared to the 1941 British film "49th Parallel" so I decided to watch both and compare them.

The two films are superficially similar: they are both about a small group of Nazis moving, (with startling ease), across the vastness of Canada and trying to escape the authorities. In the earlier film, they have already wreaked destruction and just want to escape. In the latter, they are planning to wreck things and are foiled. The 1941 film was filmed on location in various spots around Canada. The 1943 film is studio bound, except for shot clearly done by a stunt unit at Sun Valley. A very large difference is that the 1941 film focuses on the Nazis and shows them to be of different types, including one who decides he'd rather stay at a religious commune and resume his former profession as a baker. Another is more interested in making machines work than in politics and doesn't think much of his commander. The three most fanatical of the original 6 fugitives make it the farthest. This was a controversial thing at the time: Nazis were supposed to be shown as hate-filled bad guys only and the 1943 film follows that command, although both films show dedicated Nazis as bullies and murderers in uniform.

The 1943 film focuses on the efforts of the Canadian authorities, especially a Mountie played by Flynn who goes undercover, to foil their plans and bring them to justice. In the earlier film, the good guys are in the background. In for foreground are the good people of Canada, a French Canadian trapper (Lawrence Oliver), an innocent young Hutterite woman - she's just turned 16, (Glynis Johns), an author (Leslie Howard) and a farmer who is AWOL from the Army but still a patriot, (Raymond Massey). The film is really about the interactions between these people and the Nazis and the varied reactions of the fugitives to them. The Flynn film suggests that there were pockets of active Nazi supporters among the German population of Canada. The are absent from the first film. The 1943 film is about Flynn's battles against the bad guys, which, in the end, seem to anticipate the James Bond films. (It's interesting to imagine Flynn as 007: Ian Fleming said he had David Niven in mind. He wound up with the rough-edged Sean Connery. The on-screen Flynn seems to have too much charm and be too gentlemanly with the ladies for the role but if the films were made in the 40's, I'll bet he would have gotten the role.)

Both films have an airplane crash: one that kills a couple of the Nazis in the 1941 film and a shoot-out between Flynn and the remaining bad guys, including their sneering leader, Helmut Dantine, as the plane is crashing that reminded me a bit of the end of Goldfinger. The plot of the 1943 film stretches credulity: the Nazis have smuggled in the parts to assemble a bomber in western Canada before the war and have now sent in a crew to find it, build it and then fly across Canada, to bomb the St. Lawrence canals, (this was before the modern seaway). The Nazis of the 49th Parallel are part of a U-Boat crew that has already sunk several ships in the St. Lawrence, made their way to Hudson's Bay, (around Newfoundland and Quebec), where their boat got sunk and they are the survivors, who are left stranded, presumably on the west side of the bay. They somehow make their way to Winnipeg and then walk to British Columbia, where they hope to get a boat to Japan. The last survivor, their leader, played by Eric Portman, is last seen unconscious in the wilderness around Banff, then in an airplane and finally in the boxcar of a train in Ontario. It begs credibility.

Flynn gives a smooth, under-stated but effective performance as a Mountie of German desent who is loyal to Canada but pretends not to be in order to infiltrate the fifth columnists, which include Gene Lockhart as a dedicated but foolish spy, and discern and stop Dantine's plans. The highlight of the film is Dantine's entrance, which involves a German sub surfacing through a symbolic layer of ice, Dantine's team disembarking, getting transportation from a local Indian tribe and then being caught in a landslide that leave Dantine alone and unconscious, freezing to death until Flynn and a fellow Mountie, played by John Ridgley, (Eddie Mars in "The Big Sleep"), find him. Flynn's early friendliness and deadly showdown in the finale with Dantine bring to mind his relationship with Surat Khan in "The Charge of the Light Brigade", as does the fact that Errol saves the bad guy at the beginning of the film and kills him at the end. Flynn's character has some heartbreak in that he's got to separate himself from his fiancé, (played adequately by the forgotten Julie Bishop), and friends by pretending to turn traitor. The film ends with a cheesy reference to Flynn's rape trial when he pledges love and loyalty to Bishop and then, hugging her, turns to the camera and says "What am I saying?" It must have been painful to play such scenes.

Both are reasonably entertaining films from the war years that emphasize the threat of the Nazis and the inadequacy of apathy and complacency in the face of that threat. "49th Parallel" is the better drama, "Northern Pursuit" the more exciting film. My cursory research into Canada during the war didn't reveal any problems with German immigrants supporting Hitler or native peoples, (as in "North Pursuit"), thinking they could be better off under the Germans. They do avoid any reference to opposition to the war in Quebec, where there was some loyalty to Vichy France. There was U-boat activity in the St. Lawrence but it seems to have mostly been in the period 1942-44, not 1940, when "49th Parallel was made.
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6/10
They don't make them like that anymore
26 May 2021
"They don't make them like that anymore". That's surely true of the all-star variety movie, which were common in the Golden Age of Hollywood, when the studios had a long list of name actors under contract and from time to time put them all into a single musical movie, regardless of whether they could actually dance or sing, drawn together with a plot as thin as tissue paper. Most of the numbers here are part of a show they put on for war charities called the "Cavalcade of Stars", and that's basically what this movie is.

Errol Flynn is in this movie but it's hardly an Errol Flynn movie. If the film has a star, it's Eddie Cantor, then wildly popular but now largely forgotten, whose trademark was a bug-eyed look that suggest shock or fear. He gets a dual role as himself, trying to direct the show and a look-alike running a "Homes of the Stars" tour who is sick of being mistaken for him. Add in Dennis Morgan as an aspiring singer and Joan Leslie as an aspiring song writer and a plot to displace the real Cantor with the look-alike to get them into the show and you've got all the story you need for something like this.

Warner's at this time wasn't doing many musicals so they didn't have the roster of musical stars MGM had. That means this is a parade of actors who can't sing or dance dancing and singing. That doesn't mean it isn't amusing. Flynn's turn as a jolly braggart in a bar describing his phony war heroics, (which ends with him being tossed out a window), is fun, although the irony that Flynn had been rejected for military service due to various ailments was not lost on audiences. His other appearance comes at the very end where he lip-syncs to an operatic voice. He then talks in his own voice, saying that that was quite a singing voice. "I wish it was mine". The highlight is surely Bette Davis singing "They're either too young or too old", a combination of acting, signing and a jitterbug where she gets flipped around by her partner, who had won a dance contest but had to be convinced by Davis to "ignore who I am and just go with your instincts", which resulted in a knee injury. She may have bene too old or her partner too young. Alan Hale does a vaudeville number with Jack Carson and Olivia de Havilland joins Ida Lupino and, of all people, George Tobias in a number awkwardly spoofing the Andrews Sisters, (making this her final film with Flynn, not They Died With Their Boots On - Hale would have one more but 6 years later). Dinah Shore and Ann Sheridan look fantastic and sing well in a couple of numbers and Alexis Smith does the same in a dance. There a production number with black soldiers that may have been edited out in the south. John Garfield does a song and Humphrey Bogart, with a three-day beard, lets S. Z. "Cuddles" Sakall intimidate him, then wonders if his fans will see this.

All of their fans would see this and they could care less what we think about it today.
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8/10
Cancel Culture
11 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
I watched Waterloo Bridge in its entirety tonight for the first time. There are things I like very much about it and other things I don't care for. The ledger comes out with a profit in watching it but I can't forget either side of it.

I love the sweet sentimentality of the film: how many films today have that quality? The score might seem cloying to some. Every sentimental song composed before 1940 seems to be in it with "Auld Ang Syne" the dominant theme, but it works to create the proper mood and the scene where they dance to that song without further dialog is perfection. I love the performances of the gorgeous leads: Robert Taylor and Vivien Leigh, here playing a far more likeable character than Scarlett O'Hara. Taylor later morphed into a leathery tough guy. His early performances as Armand in Camille and this film are a revelation. I particularly like that Taylor's parents, (actually C. Aubrey Smith is his uncle), are sympathetic and understanding characters: they are not the cliche snobbish villains. That's left to minor characters. The only 'heavy' in the film aside from the unseen Germans is Maria Ouspenskaya as a demanding, unsympathetic ballet teacher/director who from what I've heard is a pretty realistic character.

I've recently read an Audrey Hepburn biography and she seems to have been living under somewhat similar circumstances as Myra, with one large exception, a decade later. She would have been excellent in a remake but not better than Vivien here. In fact the similar Leslie Caron did do a remake of this film called Gaby in 1956.

The things I don't like about the 1940 film are: -the fact that Taylor is supposed to be a Scots aristocrat but affects no accent, (I assume it was because he wasn't good at that sort of thing), while the other characters all have authentic accents. Leigh was able to do a southern accent for both of her Oscar winning performances. Maybe that's Taylor never got one. Taylor enacts the part well but he's obviously and American, (they could have made him the son of rich Canadians resident in Britain). Leigh wanted her soon-to-be husband, Laurence Oliver, to play the part. He would have lacked Taylor's charm but would have sounded right.

  • Hollywood was big on tragic coincidences, (see Love Affair/An Affair to Remember) and this story is chock full of them as events conspire to keep the lovers apart. It's kind of hard to swallow, although war is full of roadblocks to happiness.


  • The film makes it abundantly clear that Myrna is turning tricks to pay the bills but the production code insisted that the word "prostitute" never be said. So Instead we get some dreadful dialog: "That thought which is now in your mind that you are telling yourself cannot be true is true!" and "She'd never go back to the.....You don't have to say i. I understand." Ugh.


  • This is one of what must be a hundred films from the depression era in which lovers of different social and economic classes find their relationship to be 'impossible' and one of them, (usually the woman) has to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect the reputation of her beloved. I have the very modern attitude that if you've found your soul mate, let the world be damned. But it was a different world back then, when too many things other than love mattered. The fact that Taylor's mother and uncle are so obviously tolerant makes Leigh's decision to allow everything to be ruined hard to take.


  • The ending, which is not in the book, the original 1931 movie of the same title or in Gaby is an obvious rip-off of Anna Karenina, which Leigh would play 8 years later. Viv needs to pay better attention to on-coming traffic. In the original Myra dies as the result of a bomb explosion and in Gaby her lover, (John Kerr), saves her from the bomb and tells her "Let's forget the terrible things this war made us do."


  • That's my favorite ending. If a woman falls on hard times and has to do something desperate to survive, she shouldn't be treated as a pariah by people who have never faced desperation. If the right guy comes along, she should have the right to pursue happiness. Watching this film, I became angry that Myra didn't. 'Cancel culture' is nothing new.
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Naked City: New York to L.A. (1961)
Season 2, Episode 23
8/10
Poor Lt. Busti
6 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
Ed Asner plays police Lt. Vincent Busti in two episodes, "A Hole In the City", (2/1/61) and "New York to LA" (4/19/61) and in both episodes Lt. Busti gets shot. He survives in the second episode but appears to have been killed in the first one. I wonder if they were not shown in the order filmed and the earlier episode was supposed to be Busti's demise. If so, it's a sad thing because the latter episode stresses that he's got a wife and a young son at home and it's important that he recover and get home to them.

There's no confusion of character names: I just watched both episodes and Asner's character is called Lt. Vincent Busti in both. In the earlier episode he meets Flint, Arcaro and Parker and they don't know each other. In the latter episode, they do but there is no mention of the earlier incident. When Asner is shot in that episode, Olga Bellin cradles his head and shouts at Robert DuVal, "Wherever you go, Lewis, whatever you touch, you make death!" Lt. Busti is not seen again in that episode, so it's an easy assumption that he's a goner.

Herb Leonard and Sterling Silliphant were early boosters of Ed Asner's career. He appeared no less than 5 times on their other show, "Route 66". In his last two appearances there, "Shoulder the Sky, My Lad " (3/2/62) and "Welcome to the Wedding" (11/8/62), he is also killed, first by a knife in a mugging and then by a fugitive who escapes his custody, the same scenario as here. When Asner's character is shot or stabbed, he makes a point of emphasizing how awful it is to experience that, letting out screams of pain and gasping or even gurgling for his last breath. I detect a conscious effort by this socially conscious actor to tell the audience that these events are dreadful things: these characters are being physically invaded. They aren't just having heart attacks.
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10/10
Flynn on the edge of darkness
6 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
Flynn once again takes on the nasty Nazis in a film that couldn't be more different than the comparatively light-hearted romp of 1942's "Desperate Journey". This film has as bleak an opening as any film from Hollywood's Golden Age has ever had, (it's been compared to 'Beau Geste' which was more mysterious than horrific). This film is a dead serious tribute to the citizens of Norway and other conquered countries in their underground opposition to their oppressors.

We open with a German observation plane noticing that the Nazi flag has been replaced by the Norwegian flag in a fishing village. They dispatch a German boat to investigate and a small detachment of troops is shocked to find the place strewn with bodies of both the town's citizens and the German soldiers they fought. The only living person seems to be the owner of the town canary, who seems to have lost his mind. They decide he is useless in his current state and shoot him. They find the German commandant, (Helmut Dantine, in a typical role), has shot himself. The movie then flashes back to a time before the battle where Dantine is bragging to a Gestapo officer about how he and his men can control the local populace. We find out the canary owner is a collaborator, just interested in his own well-being. The local clergyman, (Richard Fraser) is against violence and doesn't want to do anything that would create it. The local doctor, (Walter Huston), and his wife, (Ruth Gordon) like to pretend that things aren't so bad and will someday go back to being the way they were. His son, (John Beal), is a weak, naïve university student who has been used as an informer by the Nazis. His sister, (Ann Sheridan), has all the qualities he lacks and is a leader in the resistance. Flynn is a fisherman and resistance leader planning to leave because the citizens of the two aren't ready to for a revolt. Judith Anderson is the owner of a hotel the Nazis are using for their headquarters. Morris Carnovsky is a retired university professor whose books can't tell him what to do. Roman Bohnen is an old man who sees Norway as a land of 'giants' brought down low by the invaders. Art Smith, who himself would become the victim of a different type of repression, (the blacklist), plays a committed but pessimistic member of the underground. As another reviewer has pointed out, what is miss are the usual member s of the Warner's stock company. No Alan Hale, no Frank McHugh, no Alan Jenkins, no "Cuddles" Sakall, no one who's presence would brighten the affair or provide any humor in any way. This picture was serious business!

It's full of memorable dramatic scenes, beginning with the aftermath of the battle. There's a meeting of the town's citizens in the church, (which becomes a church service when the Nazis march by). The possibility of being given arms by the British has arisen. That happened to another town that got wiped out in the subsequent battle. Each person is allowed to speak their peace on the subject of resistance and the wide variance of points of view is fully represented. I can't recall such a scene in Golden Age movies other than this one. Crowds are usually uniformly for something or against it, (or easily won over by a stirring speech). This scene illustrates that the decision to resist is a difficult and complex one. Then there is the professor, confronting the Nazi commandant on their demand for possession of his house. Powerless to resist, he does so anyway, asserting his moral superiority while the Nazi berates him and tells him, (and the audience), that no one can stand up to the new Reich. He winds up beating the old man up and has his men take his beloved books and tear them apart in the town square. The citizens pick up the papers in silent protest.

Things come to a head when Sheridan is raped, (this is implied but strongly), and Huston takes his anger out on a German soldier, causing all the leads to be condemned to a firing squad - after they dig their own graves. This is interrupted first by the preacher, who had put aside his pacifism to grab a machine gun and lay the firing squad low from the belfry of his church, and then by the citizens who advance on the Germans in formation with their newly acquired guns. Even Beal's weakling character turns heroic at the end. Unlike most Hollywood battles that are one-sided with the good guys winning or dying gloriously, in this one the two sides virtually exterminate each other, (reminiscent of the nihilistic ending of Huston's cops vs. Gangster's film of a decade before, "The Beast of the City"), thus creating the scene the Nazis encounter at the beginning.

Flynn is part of the ensemble here and underplays his role, (which was originally supposed to be played by a very different actor, Humphrey Bogart), appropriately. The more dramatic the situation is, the less 'acting' you have to do. Sheridan shines in a departure from her normal glamour girl roles and makes an equal partner for Flynn. She's not his 'girl'. Huston is outstanding, as always, as is Carnofsky. Also memorable is Nancy Coleman, who was part of the resistance in "Desperate Journey" but here is the commandant's Polish 'girlfriend' who wants out and gets shot by him during the final battle. She was a very attractive and talented actress who stardom unfortunately eluded.

This was part of a package of Warner Brothers movies a local TV station ran in the afternoon when I was a kid. We always loved our Errol Flynn movies but this one was a dark and depressing one and not our favorite. As an adult, I am much more impressed with it and see it as a change in Flynn's career toward more serious roles, along with the upcoming "Uncertain Glory", in films more appropriate to the mood of things in the 1940's. "Edge of Darkness" was directed by Lewis Milestone, who had previously done that classic of world cinema, "All Quiet on the Western Front" and the script was written by Robert Rossen, who later directed "the Hustler" so you know this wasn't going to be anything lightweight. They do allow Flynn, Sheridan, Huston and a handful of citizens to get away at the end, assuring war-time audiences that the resistance will continue.

One thing I've learned in reading IMDB reviews is that there is nothing so bad that there wasn't somebody who thought it was great nor is there something so good that that there is no one who didn't like it. This film, like all the others has a few detractors. One of them said at the end of his review: "I'm surprised by all the favorable reviews on this site; perhaps they're all from people who saw the movie when it first came out and have never forgotten the effect it had on them." That's the definition of a great film.
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Gentleman Jim (1942)
10/10
The End of the 'Pinnacle'
23 April 2021
This was Errol Flynn's own favorite of his films and it's defiantly one of mine, too. He's perfectly cast as "Gentleman Jim" Corbett, in some ways the Muhammed Ali of his day. Boxing has repeated this scenario often: A powerful puncher is regarded at invincible: too awesome to lose. A great boxer comes along and avoid the champ's power and uses his defense to set up his offense, tired out the champ and wins the title. (see Jack Johnson vs. James Jeffries, Gene Tunney vs. Jack Dempsey and Ali vs. Sonny Liston and George Foreman. The power doesn't know what to do when he can't his big punch against his clever opponent - or what to do when he finds himself under attack instead of seeing his opponent cower from his power.

Corbett was also a flamboyant showman and self-promoter with the good looks and charm to attract the ladies. He was precisely the same size as Flynn, who was well-schooled in how to imitate Corbett's moves. Reliable character actor Ward Bond gets the role of his life as the brawny braggart, John L. Sullivan, who finally gets beaten after many years, then almost melts the celluloid with his sentimental appearance at Corbett's victory party. As a child watching this, (this was one of several classic Flynn films that a local station had in it's library), I was particularly moved by this scene and by the normally unsubtle Bond's tender performance. It taught me that rivals are not necessarily bad guys. That reversal left a tremendous impression on my young mind.

It's a Flynn adventure film with no bad guys and no deaths but plenty of fun and some great drama at the end. There are the usual problems with historical accuracy, (the tender scene with Sullivan never took place; Corbett was married to an actress throughout this period: Alexis Smith's character is an invention), but they seem minor and the film would not have been improved by adhering to reality. (I always say that Hollywood doesn't lie: it tries to improve on reality.) The Irish humor with Flynn's family led by the ubiquitous Alan Hale is amusing but not over-bearing. (This would be his last pairing with Flynn until The Adventures of Don Juan seven years later.) The romantic sparing with the delicious Alexis Smith is a lot of fun, too. I can't put this film quite on a level with The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk or They Died With Their Boots On but you can see why Flynn liked it and I suspect you will, too.

"The Films of Errol Flynn" by Tony Thomas, Rudy Behlmer and Clifford McCarthy has four chapters: "The Evolution of a Cavalier", "The Pinnacle Era", "The Slow Deflation" and "The Last Seven Years". This is the last film they cover in the "The Pinnacle Era". Several things were happening at this time that would contribute to "The Slow Deflation". Flynn collapsed on the set with what turned out to be a mild heart attack. This plus the fact that he'd had malaria kept him out of military service during the war. The war itself changed audience's tastes. They could no longer see conflict as an 'adventure'. Flynn's subsequent films took a noticeably darker turn. This was the time of his trial for rape: he was acquitted but it soiled his heroic reputation. His own lifestyle, which included substance abuse, would take a toll on his looks, his finances and his reliability. His own attitude that he wanted to be respected as a 'serious' actor in films a lot less entertaining that the ones he made his reputation on would become a factor, as well.

There were still some good films to come. But most of the great ones were already in the can.
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8/10
Not so desperate but a lot of fun
14 April 2021
Warning: Spoilers
Errol Flynn joins the war effort here, (remember "Dive Bomber' was before Pearl Harbor), in a 'fun' adventure story of a bomber crew downed in Germany who hides and fights their way across occupied Europe, the survivors, (half of them), eventually get back to England by stealing a British bomber the Germans had captured and were going to use to bomb the waterworks that supplies London. While there are some serious moments, much of their journey is a lark, full of wise-cracks and easy victories over German guards and pursuers. I half expected our heroes to use the Hope-Crosby patty-cake routine to disarm the bad guys when they got the drop on them.

If you want to take the film apart, you can. But if you don't, you'll have a good time as war-time audiences surely did. The bomber crew is intentionally an unlikely group: Flynn finally gets to play an Australian. Ronald Reagan plays a typical American, (complete with a wonderful double-talk routine), Alan Hale a British veteran of the first war and Arthur Kennedy a Canadian, thus uniting in one crew the four major English-speaking nations that were fighting the Germans. The RAF and the USAF, of course, had their own bombers and crews and their own ideas about how to use them. It's doubtful that there was ever a bomber crew combining these nationalities. But it's a tribute to all of them.

The cast is quite a crew themselves. Flynn at this time was frustrated that his medical history, (he'd had malaria and was soon found to have a mild heart problem as well), kept him out of the action and forced him to 'fight' the war in films like this. He'd volunteered to be a civilian guide around his old haunts in New Guinea but was turned down for that, too. And the phony rape allegations against him came out just before this film came out, so this was a test of his continuing popularity, which he passed as this became one of the top box-office films of the year. Ronald Reagan had had his breakthrough role in 'Kings Row' just before this and was more co-star than second lead here, after playing General Custer to Flynn's Jeb Stuart in 'Santa Fe Trail' two years before. Unfortunately, he was shortly inducted into the military service, killing the momentum his career had finally found and he never became a big star, just a name until he entered politics. Arthur Kennedy had just played a bad guy who dies next to Flynn's version of Custer in 'They Died With Their Boots on'. Alan Hale Sr. Was the 10th of the 13 Flynn films he would appear in and gets to die heroically in a battle with the Germans. Raymond Massey, after playing the fanatical John Brown in 'Santa Fe Trail', plays a fanatical, monocled German officer who takes personal charge of capturing Flynn's crew.

The film certainly acknowledges the danger the heroes were in: three of their crew die. Nancy Coleman plays a nurse who helps them and whose fate is uncertain as she walks away from them at the end. But it's mostly about the guys repeatedly triumphing over the rather inept bad guys, (whose security arrangements seem particularly sparse). But 1942 audiences enjoyed seeing the Nazis look bad: see also the Humphrey Bogart vehicle, "All Through the Night" from the same year, with gangsters battling fifth columnists in New York. I don't recall a similar film involving the Japanese, whom we apparently didn't regard as funny. This film is certainly entertaining. Some of a later generation have compared it to 'Hogan's Heroes' for its combination of Nazi's, comedy and adventure. I would also compare it to 'I Spy' for the casual banter of the heroes under pressure.

You can take it apart if you want. But you might find it's more fun to accept it for what it is and just enjoy it.
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9/10
More 'Woke' Than You Think
3 April 2021
The Adventures of Robin Hood is Errol Flynn's justly most famous film. The Sea Hawk is, in my judgment, his greatest film. But when I was a kid and all my friends would gather at my house to watch one of the Errol Flynn films a local station had in their syndication package, there was unanimous agreement that They Died With Their Boots on was THE incomparable Errol Flynn film. The great set-piece of the final battle with our hero standing defiantly alone, the last of his command still alive, out of bullets but holding his sword toward the enemy, was over-whelming to us. After the show was over, we would repair to the backyard and refight the battle, arguing about who would be Custer and who would be Crazy Horse.

Looking at it as an adult who has read some history, I can see that there is a lot to object to in this movie. But I still think it is a great film. It is wonderfully entertaining and there's even some 'woke' moments in it, to use a modern term for being politically and morally aware, that seem to me to be even more important than the historical inaccuracies.

General Custer has been an inflatable - and deflatable hero to Americans over the years. After his death he was a national hero/martyr who had "died with his boots on". Paintings of his brave "last stand" were an art form in the late 19th century which graced many a saloon. He was still considered a hero at the time of this film and we needed them in 1941. Over the years sympathy for the Indians grew and they are shown as the courageous victims of corrupt white men, (as they often were by Hollywood and then television neither of which viewed the only good Indian as being a dead one). Custer in this film is not among them. He's shown as being entirely too full of himself in the comic scenes early in the film but he shows the courage to back up his opinion of himself in battle and proves to be a man of great integrity as well as courage. This puts him at odds with the corrupt men who, ironically, had insisted that he follow the rules at West Point and during the Civil War but who, now in civilian life, were out to make money by getting a monopoly on trading posts, (this part of the film is authentic: the writers pick what they need out of reality and make up the rest - it's not a documentary). There's a great scene just before the 7th Cavalry leave for their final battle in which Custer and Arthur Kennedy as 'Ned Sharp' have an unfriendly drink. Sharp tells him that pursuing glory as Custer has is foolish compared to Sharp's pursuit of money. Custer tells him that glory has one thing over money - you can take it with you. He might also have been talking about integrity.

The real theme of this film is not the quest for glory. It's about how corrupt businessmen and politicians get our country and thus our military into situations where they have to fight costly wars, where the soldiers and the aboriginal peoples we wind up fighting pay the price and the corrupt ones count the money. That's a very modern, very 'woke' theme for a 1941 film. It makes up for the fact that the unseemly aspects of Custer's character and career are largely absent for them film. Those aspects are more than adequately covered in his many cinematic and video appearances since the war. One purpose of our fictional heroes, (and this Custer is more fictional than real), is to advertise the qualities we admire while the villains advertise the qualities for which we have contempt. The hero and villains of this film do that admirably.

Kennedy is playing virtually the same character Van Heflin plays in the previous year's Santa Fe Trail. There's an impressive scene early in this film, when the officers and cadets at West Point loyal to the south are allowed to leave in good order and with respect to join the Confederacy that reminded me of the fortune teller scene in that film where the young officers are told that will one day be fighting each other. The fact that the most apparently disciplined characters in the beginning of the film are the most corrupt at the end of it is interesting: they use rules to suppress others but lack any moral compass. Is that meant to suggest the Nazis? I'm still trying to figure out what the constant references to onions means.

Hattie McDaniel makes an appearance here, playing the same maid-with-a-mind-of-her-own character she does in so many films but never better than here. Stanley Ridges plays the officious but corrupt Major Romulus Taipe, (Red Tape?), to the holt. John Litel is a more principled and understanding version of the same character. Both are excellent with wonderfully sharp theatrically trained voices.

The film is justly famous for the final scene between Flynn and Olivia De Havilland after 8 films together. This is the only film that depicted them after their marriage as a husband and wife. They both know that Custer is going to his death but don't dare mention it. The actors also both knew that, since she no longer wanted to play the girl or the wife in his films, this would likely be their last scene together. Knowing that gives this scene an emotional impact beyond that of any other scene in the cinema. When Custer says, for the third time in the film "Walking through life with you, ma'am, has been a very gracious thing", there isn't a dry eye in the house. Any house.
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6/10
Flynn, on vacation
13 March 2021
Warning: Spoilers
From time to time Errol Flynn would demand and be given a break from the earnest heroism and physical labor of his adventure films and be given a role in a modern, (meaning 1941 here), comedy. The Perfect Specimen (1937), Four's a Crowd (1938) and this film are all perfectly watchable but minor and derivative comedies that showed that Flynn could play the sorts of roles they demanded but without making the sort of impression that William Powell or Cary Grant would make in the films they were fashioned after. If Flynn had tried to make a career of these films, we would not have heard of him today.

Here he's an investment counselor, (a rather dull profession), who writes mystery novels on the side and decides to try and solve one when one of his clients is killed. He deceives his wife, (Brenda Marshall, who had just co-starred with Flynn in The Sea Hawk), and mother-in-law with whom he lives by using a pseudonym because his novels tend to mock their social class. He carries on a cat-and-mouse relationship with his friends on the police force who don't think much of his novels or his amateur sleuthing, especially when they come to suspect him of being the murderer. He has to clear himself and find the real murderer while keeping his activities secret from the two women at home, who being to suspect him of having an affair because of his secrecy and then of being the murderer when they learn about it. He comes to suspect his wife of murder when a second victim is revealed because this one was an attractive blonde in cahoots with the real murderer and she thought this might be her rival for Flynn's affections.

About 80% of the film is about the comic situations that arise out of this and the rest serious reactions to the fact that people are being killed, which makes the film seem too lightweight. With The Thin Man films, which this one obviously wants to emulate, the humor intervened occasionally on the drama, a better mix for the subject matter.

As with so many films from this era of filmmaking, the character actors do as much to carry the show as the stars. Alan Hale, who is in 13 of Flynn's films, plays the police inspector who is no fool but who isn't looking for trouble where it doesn't appear to be. William Frawley, (a decade before he became Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy), provides the dumb cop needed to make the hero appear smart. Allen Jenkins is Flynn's faithful sidekick, as he was to so many stars in so many films. Lee Patrick, who this same year played Humphrey Bogart's faithful secretary in The Maltese Falcon, is the ill-fated blonde. Ralph Bellamy is a dentist who might not be the nice guy he seems to be. Lucille Watson plays Brenda Marshall's haughty and suspicious mother.

A movie goer looking for a couple hours entertainment in 1941 wouldn't be contemptuous of this but he would probably hope that next week's feature would be better. Today we just see it as Flynn keeping busy between the films that really mattered, even if he probably enjoyed making this one more than the ones we prefer to remember.
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The Sea Hawk (1940)
10/10
With Grateful Affection
17 February 2021
Warning: Spoilers
As great as "The Adventures of Robin Hood" is, for me "The Sea Hawk" is the all-time Errol Flynn film, the first one I'd show to someone who had never seen an Errol Flynn film and wondered what the fuss was about.

He's at the height of his powers here, handsome, athletic, assured, able to smoothly change tones from scene to scene and even within a scene as he woes his leading lady, the beautiful Brenda Marshall, calling her "Our Lady of the Roses" or as he accepts the official recriminations of Queen Elizabeth while expressing his friendship and loyalty to her.

The film contains one brilliantly done scene after another. Usually, the big battle comes at the beginning of the film as Flynn, (Captain Geoffrey Thorpe, based on Sir Frances Drake), captures a Spanish galleon full of oars manned by enslaved Englishmen and carrying Claude Rains' Spanish Ambassador and his beautiful daughter, (Marshall). Then we get Thorpe's charmingly shy wooing of Marshall and his wry exchanges for Flora Robson's Elizabeth. There's a haunting scene where Marshall has found out that Thorpe's mission to Panama will be a trap but arrives too late to stop him from sailing, able only to watch wishfully as he and his ship disappear into the fog. Then come the jungle battles and the eerie sight of Thorpe's apparently abandoned ship, the Albatross where the last remnants of his crew are captured. We see Thorpe and his men become galley slaves themselves but rebel and take over the ship to sail back to England, where Thorpe has a dramatic swordfight with the villain, Lord Wolfingham, (Henry Daniel), obviously intended to match or exceed the famous one between Flynn and Rathbone in 'Robin Hood'. Robson ends it by making a Churchillian speech prior to the battle with the Spanish Armada, which is not depicted here, (unlike the somewhat similar 1937 British Film, Fire Over England with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh). It's probably best it wasn't as the emotional peak for this film had already been reached.

The action of this film takes place about a decade before the previous years "Elizabeth and Essex". Here Flynn is not trying to take over the Kingdom and his affection for Elizabeth makes more sense. Robson's Elizabeth doesn't probe into her neurotic psyche the way Bette Davis does but she had a greater presence and a charming sense of humor, even if she retains the quick temper. Marshall is a statuesque heroine but the emotional timbre of her performance is convincing. The cast is full of the 'usual suspect' of an Errol Flynn film. Alan Hale continues to be joined at Flynn's hip. Rains plays another schemer, although he loves his daughter, as does Daniel, who had a similar role in 'Elizabeth and Essex'. Unlike Rathbone, he was no swordsman and their duel in the finale is done by stuntmen but still very effective. Donald Crisp is the stalwart courtier, warning Elizabeth of the Spanish threat. Una O'Connor repeats her role as the heroine's maid from 'Robin Hood'. Montagu Love, King Henry VIII in "The Prince and the Pauper" and the Bishop of the Black Canons in 'Robin Hood', is King Philip of Spain here, his shadow falling over the map of the known world as he declares that one day it will simply be a map of Spain. William Lundigan makes another appearance but can't survive the jungle. You can also recognize Edgar Buchanan in an early role, shortly after he turned his dentistry practice over to his wife. Swashbuckling was more fun.

Michael Curtiz keeps his usual brisk pace and the film is blessed by another great musical score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold live it the lush romantic ambiance old Hollywood was so good at. The brief 'Dona Maria's Song' is amazingly beautiful. Just one more perfect thing for a perfect film.

The background of all this was the war that had begun the previous year. England was being bombarded by the Luftwaffe while the descendants of the sea hawks, the RAF struggled against great odds to prevent an invasion. Hitler clearly had the same ambitions as Philip. America was still officially neutral, as England was at the beginning of this film. The messages were even clearer to the audiences of the time than they are now: seek the peace but be prepared for war - and let the heroes come forth!
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Virginia City (1940)
8/10
Short of a classic but very under-rated
11 February 2021
Warning: Spoilers
1940 may have been the peak year of Errol Flynn's career. He made three memorable films that year: 'Virginia City', 'The Sea Hawk and 'Santa Fe Trail'. This was the first of them.

At the end of 1939's 'Dodge City', Flynn's character in that one, Wade Hatton, who just cleaned up that Kansas city, has agreed to go out to Virginia City, (in Nevada), and audiences must have thought the new film was a sequel to that one. It is not. The action in this one predates that one and Flynn here plays Kerry Bradford, an Irishman fighting for the Union who escapes from Libby Prison and is assigned to go to the western city not to 'clean it up' but to secure the gold being produced there for the Union. There he finds, in a classic movie irony, the former commandant of Libby, Randolph Scott, who has been assigned to remove much of that gold to the Confederacy to finance the war effort. Hollywood had to straddle the subject of the Civil War in those days, (same with the Revolution), because the losers of the war were now a major part of the market for their films. As a result, Flynn and Scott are depicted as rivals, rather than good or bad guys.

This necessitates the introduction of a genuinely bad guy, someone with no cause and no principles Enter Humphrey Bogart, who had been playing bad guy, (or worse guy) in Edward G. Robinson and Jimmy Cagney movies. Here he's a Mexican bandit with a small army of henchmen who rob and steal throughout the west. He's wearing one of those pencil moustaches that were popular at the time and using a sort of Mexican accent that comes and goes. But he does a good job of providing a real bad guy, allowing both Flynn and Scott to appear admirable by contrast.

A major weakness in the film is the leading lady. It was supposed to be Olivia de Havilland. Who had grown tired of being Flynn's love interest, so much so that in Dodge City, she wanted to switch roles with Ann Sheridan, who played sexy dance hall performer and have Ann play the demure, wistful heroine. Had she taken the role in Virginia City, she would have been able to play both roles in one. 'Julia Hayne' is a strange hybrid of a southern belle and girlfriend of Scott's who is not above spying for her beloved confederacy. Somehow that has transformed her into saloon entertainer in Nevada. She falls for Flynn on a stagecoach trip west but remains loyal to the Confederacy and helps Scott, whom she continues to love as well. She has a final scene in which she pleads with President Lincoln to spare Flynn, who has hidden the gold to save it from Bogart but prevent it from getting to the Confederacy but also insure that it won't be used against them, (talk about fence-straddling!), after which she is so impressed with Lincoln that she promises to tell the people of the south what a great man he is. That must have been an interesting trip.

With de Havilland refusing to play the role, it probably should have gone to Sheridan but instead Miriam Hopkins, a good character actress approaching 40, (when that was middle aged) was chosen. She lacks the stunning looks and glamour de Havilland would have brought to the project and can't sing a note. Her scenes with Flynn fall flat. Flynn's affection for her seems forced although his reaction to her betrayal of him seems realistic. They lack any screen chemistry.

Despite these problems, the film is very entertaining, better, in my view than Dodge City which is often said to over-shadow it. As in that film, Alan Hale and Guinn "Big Boy" Williams form a comedy team of protectors for Flynn. Dickie Jones joins Scotty Beckett, ('The Charge of the Light Brigade'), and Bobs Watson, ('Dodge City'), as young boys whose on-screen deaths show how cruel the bad guys are. John Litel adds some gravitas in another small role. What dominates the film are the big, exciting action scenes, the amazing stunt work, impressive use of actual locations and painted backdrops and the larger-than-life musical score from Max Steiner, which gives the film an epic feel that 'Dodge City tried for but came up a bit short on. One wonders why this one wasn't made in technicolor.

A couple of sad notes: As noted in the trivia sections, this film was re-released in 1956 and advertised as a Randolph Scott - Humphrey Bogart film. Hopkins had been forgotten and Flynn's life and career had deteriorated to the point that he was no longer a drawing card. But in 1940 he was at the height of his powers and easily dominates this film. He was one of two great heroes of my youth, (I was born in 1953). An afternoon movie show presented many of Flynn's best films and "The Adventures of Superman" was being broadcast with my other hero, George Reeves, who appears briefly here as an army telegrapher. Both died in 1959 and my parents didn't have the heart to me that they were gone.
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8/10
The actual day!
10 February 2021
Warning: Spoilers
A fun episode about Ralph trying to get his sister-in-law to elope so that he can go to Game 5 of the 1954 World Series between the Giants and the Indians the next day instead of having to attend her wedding. Ralph and Alice have one of their best arguments. Ralph meets Norton at a manhole for lunch and we hear all kinds of details about life in the sewer. (They have a 'floating crap game', perhaps the best line in the series.) They visit the fiance at a movie theater where he is the projectionists and Norton takes too much interest in the film- the actual reel of film. Finally, Ralph and Ed have to assist the elopement with the help of a flimsy ladder which caused Gleason to improvise much of the scene, (no doubt remembering that he'd broken his leg on the show the previous spring).

But the kicker comes when Frank Marth, playing still another policeman, informs Ralph that there won't be a game on Sunday October 5th because the Giants wrapped up the sweep of the series that day - October 4th. And that actually happened that day! They must have added that line at the end of the already written show when the Giants won that day's game a few hours before.

One little problem - Game Five would have been played in Cleveland!
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Studio One (1948–1958)
7/10
A portal into TV's past
8 February 2021
I've always wanted to see the original, 1954 TV production of "12 Angry Men". The 1957 starring Henry Fonda is one of my all-time favorites and I love comparing movie versions of famous dramas to the original TV versions. When the Archive of American Television issued their Studio One Anthology which included the original version of "12 Angry Men", I had to have it. I wound up watching all 17 presentations, which cover the glory era of Studio One, which, with Playhouse 90, is one of the two most famous of the live TV anthology shows that, with the live variety shows, constituted the "Golden Age of TV", which reigned before the networks deserted New York for the west coast and filmed series with rigid formats.

Watching 17 Studio Ones in 17 nights was an interesting experience, different of course then watching it once a week and watching these particular episodes over 8 years. The effect was slightly depressing while at the same time being enlightening. Part of the reason was that I was watching kinescopes, which, even when in relatively good condition, look a bit like dream sequences, fuzzy and dark. And 16 of the 17 episodes are dramas, one an opera, (a genre which I always find kind of dire). Afterwards I had an enormous desire to watch an episode of Hawaii Five-0, which, while it's also decades old, is shot on film out of doors and in the sun.

We tend to think of the anthology shows of this era in terms of "Marty", "Requiem for a Heavyweight" and "12 Angry Men". Every week a classic. But it wasn't like that. The live dramas of the Golden Age had the advantage of being open-ended: you could write about what you wanted to, so long as you kept it clean and danced around the political mores of the times. But they also were hastily done, cheap, and were shot entirely in a studio, (Studio One's was in Grand Central Station, no less), and lacked the "floor" episodic TV had, even if they also lacked its ceiling. The worst Hawaii Five-0 is probably better than the worst Studio One, even if the best Studio One goes beyond anything Hawaii Five-0 could do. This is a sample of some of the show's best work but many of the 17 plays are nothing exceptional.

The very first Studio One, (on TV, anyway: it had been on radio for a year), was "The Storm", on 11/7/48. It was redone 10/17/49 and that's the version we see here. It's just a "woman in distress" story, along the lines of "Suspicion", as an insecure young woman marries a "nice guy" and finds out he isn't. Other than its historical value, it isn't all that interesting. The oldest kinescope here is "The Medium", (12/12/48- the third ever Studio One), a Menotti opera chiefly interesting, (to me, anyway), because the producer of the stage production upon which it's based was Ephraim Zimbalist Jr., a decade before he played Stu Bailey on "77 Sunset Strip"

The best thing about these old shows is the faces- the many recognizable actors, most of them early in their careers, who appear. Jack Lemmon, in perhaps his first appearance before the cameras, (6/22/49), plays the sort of nice young man, (an aspiring songwriter), that he would become famous playing in the next decade in "June Moon". Eva Marie Saint, also an early appearance, plays the girl he falls for. Edward Andrews, a comical or occasionally menacing businessman in 60's films and TV shows, plays a more established songwriter. David Opatoshu, whose stock in trade was intellectual leaders, (see Star Trek's "A Taste of Armageddon"), here plays a window washer who anticipates Ed Norton of The Honeymooners. But the play itself is nothing special.

Charlton Heston first made a name for himself on this show and appears as Heathcliffe is a reasonable adaptation of "Wuthering Heights". The problem with such adaptations is that they had to be shoehorned into an hour and cut for Betty Furness's commercials. We get the beginning of Julius Caesar, in which Alfred Ryder does Mark Anthony's speech without Marlon Brando's passion but with a wry intelligence that was probably closer to what Shakespeare intended. It's fun to see perennial TV bad guys like Ryder and Bruce Gordon, who plays a Centurion, in non-bad guy classic roles. Most of the cast of this one turned up on "Perry Mason" over the years, multiple times.

I liked Cyril Richard as Pontius Pilate in and Easter special from 1952. A 1953 version of 1984 with Eddie Albert and Lorne Greene is powerful, (but the most depressing of all). Greene's deep voice works as well for the head bad guy as it did for the head good guy on Bonanza- it could be as frightening as it was reassuring.

The one comedy is "Confessions of a Nervous Man" from 1953 with Art Carney playing George Axelrod in a story of what it was like to write a hit play, "The Seven year Itch", (he even drops the names of Bill Wilder and Marilyn Monroe, who were preparing the 1955 film version). Audiences of the day knew that Art Carney was capable of a lot more than playing Ed Norton but that's all anybody sees today.

The greatest legacy of the live anthologies was the opportunity they gave for talented young dramatists. Gore Vidal wrote "Dark Possession" (2/15/54), which examined split personality three years before "The Three Faces of Eve" and "Summer Pavilion" (5/2/55), an homage to Tennessee Williams. Rod Serling provided "The Strike", a powerful drama with a great performance by James Daly who has to order an air strike that will kill some of his own men. (It anticipates the Twilight Zone episode "The Purple Testament".) He also wrote the last one in the collection, "The Arena", (4/8/56), a drama of Congress that turns "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" around: the veteran Senator turns out to be the good guy while the new guy wants to destroy him. It also anticipates Vidal's "The Best Man" in that the younger Senator, (Wendell Corey), is tempted to use McCarthy-like tactics against this rival but finally declines to do so.

But the writer who got the biggest reputation from Studio One is Reginald Rose, who became famous for "12 Angry Men" and for "The Defenders", the pilot of which was done on Studio One in 1957 (not included in this collection but I already had it: it's the one "Boston Legal" used because it featured William Shatner 50 years ago: the original is much better). He also wrote "The Remarkable Incident at Carson Corners" (1/11/54) and "An Almanac of Liberty" (11/8/54), both of which feature impromptu trials- the first by children and the second by some mysterious force that stops time. Both are artificial and preachy. Much better is "The Death and Life of Harry Benson" (5/31/54) with Skip Homeier as a soldier pretending to be a deceased buddy so he can have a family and "Dino" (1/2/56), which made Sal Mineo a star in a semi-autobiographical role that was also done as a movie the next year.

Ms. Furness's commercials are interesting if a bit jarring. Somehow the fact that she's doing them at the same time the dramas are being presented, with just a flat between them is a little disturbing, especially when we've just left a desolate Korean outpost like the one in "The Strike". A filmed commercial seems more distant and easier to tune out. The technology of those appliances Betty is hawking is not so different now than it was then and those refrigerators, ranges, washers and dryers look a lot more solidly built that the junk I've got in my kitchen now. Where can I get them?

Ultimate, the feeling one gets is of peering back into the mists of time. "The Medium" was broadcast 60 years ago. If the players in it could watch something that was 60 years old then, they'd be watching something from 1888. Jack Lemmon was not yet 24 when he acted in "June Moon" and died seven years ago at the age of 76. Elizabeth Montgomery appears in "Summer Pavilion" at age 22, young, talented and beautiful. She died 13 years ago at the age of 62. Eddie Albert, who lived to be age 99, co-stars with Norma Crane, who died at age 44. Virtually all the performers in these old kinescopes left us, many of them long ago.

But, thanks to the Archive of American Television, they are still with us.

(First posted to the IMDB message board in 2008)
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9/10
Don't touch that dial!
8 February 2021
Warning: Spoilers
No, it's not your vertical hold, (remember that?). That's Jackie Gleason's face, (Ralph Kramden), as he has to chow down on a sugar-laden candy bar on national TV with a terrible toothache. it's probably the greatest 'take' of all time. The method Ralph and Ed use to deal with Ralph's toothache the night before is also one of the great Honeymooner's moments.

When the "Lost Episodes" came out in the 1980's, a friend of mine who was big fan of the "Classic 39" expressed disappointment in them. he felt they were of inferior visual quality, being "kinoscopes", a record of a live broadcast created by literally bolting a film camera face-t0-face with a TV monitor and recording the show 'through the glass', compared to the Classic 39, which were simultaneously broadcast and filmed by a special process known as an 'electronicam'. I disagreed for two reasons: while the electronicam image and sound were of consistent quality, they had the 'distant' feeling of any old film. You can watch a black and white movie from 1955 and it might be a good movie but it looks like it was filmed in 1955 and you are stuck in 2021. The Lost Episodes may have some imperfections but if you look past them you can see the live performance and think that you are in 1954, when this episode was presented.

The second reason was that I felt the real peak of The Honeymooners in terms of story telling and humor was the year before the Classic 39, the 1954-55 season. The series has matured past the 10 minute sketches that were about arguments and become a full-blown show of it's own within the Jackie Gleason Show. it had fully developed characters and relationships, multi-faceted stories that lasted not 25 minutes as with the Classic 39 but 45 minutes and writers were at their peak. the humor was louder more raucous than the Classic 39 but once you get used to that you laugh harder. Some of these stories were re-done with the 60's Jackie Gleason Show but Jackie and Art Carney were older, more baggy-eyed and had lesser performers playing their wives so it wasn't as entertaining. these are the originals and the best versions of these stories.

So, If you've just watched "Ralph's Sweet Tooth", congratulations. You are about to go on a wild ride of laughs through the greatest season television's funniest show ever had!
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