Here’s Looking at You, Movie Lovers

Ever feel like you’ve found your Internet tribe, so to speak? I feel like I’ve found mine here.

The thing is, even though I’m an author of mysteries, one young adult, and one thriller novel, plus various screenplays (as yet unproduced), I am also a die-hard movie lover.

So, I was thrilled beyond words to be recognized on Ruth’s awesome Silver Screenings blog! 🙂

This is me! 🙂

Anyway, this blog post is a thank you to Ruth and to everyone who’s similarly-minded about the awesomeness of movies.

Here’s a question I really hate: “What movie would you want with you if you were stuck on a desert island?”

Okay, first of all, you’re basically asking me which movie is my favorite. As a die-hard movie lover, the answer is either, “It’s impossible to pick a favorite” or “It depends on what mood I’m in.

So, since it’s impossible for me to pick a favorite movie, I’m going to randomly select some of my very favorites from different genres.

Do I have a favorite drama movie? If I did, it would probably be The Best Years of Our Lives. The film never fails to bring a tear to my eye.

But, wait … I almost forgot about The Grapes of Wrath!

Musicals? Now, there’s a tough call. Do I go with a Fred Astaire or a Gene Kelly? I just adored Fred Astaire in The Band Wagon. But who can resist Gene Kelly in An American in Paris? As it happens, I reviewed that movie previously.

As for foreign films, once again I’m at a loss. There are so many good ones, in all sorts of different genres. Do I go with a high-octane thriller like La Femme Nikita? Or should I go with a Jacques Tati comedy? When I saw Playtime in college, I fell in love with Tati’s use of audiovisual stylings to tell stories revolving around human absurdity.

And speaking of comedy, where on earth do I start? Do I pick one of the silents? Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd? And what of the ladies? Mary Pickford? Marion Davies?

Do I go with satire, parody, or slapstick? Should I pick Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid or Catch-22 (which I reviewed here)? And what sort of comedy fan would fail to add at least one Marx Brothers movie? In my case, I’d have the difficult task of choosing between Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera.

And as for Westerns … good grief! How do I decide between John Ford, Sergio Leone, and the great revisionists, like Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch), George Roy Hill (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), or Arther Penn (Little Big Man)? Or even parodies like Blazing Saddles?

As for film noir, Eddie Muller’s Noir Alley on TCM has opened my eyes to a whole world of choices. But my pick would be one of three: The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, or Out of the Past. Now, that’s with a gun to my head, mind you! 🙂

Oh, and secondly, if I’m on a desert island, how the hell do I watch these movies? 🙂

So, thank you, again, Ruth! And thank you to everyone who reads this blog! Here’s to the movies! 🙂

PS: I have an updated Movie Review Journal, which you can download here for no charge.

The cover! 🙂

Index pages

Notes! 🙂

I’d love to know what you think of it.


Posted in Movies, Roundup | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Bloggers, Here’s Looking at You

I’m so honored and happy! 🙂 More to come!

Silver Screenings

Image: Warner Archive

We admire you, fellow bloggers.

You know the ups and down of the Blogging Life. Sometimes the ideas come so quickly you can’t keep up. Other times, writer’s block is so wedged-in you want to scream.

You write about film, food, travel, books, history, music, photography, fashion – to name a few – and you make it truly interesting. We’ve learned something from each of you.

Some of you have given us a bit of recognition over the past year, and today it’s our turn to recognize you.

Epicurean Award
10 Cents of Dates

For sharing fabulous recipes and humour,
and for dedicating the Best Jello Recipe Ever to us.

Community Service Award
What You Blog About?

For giving us a shout-out and encouraging their readers to visit us.
If you’re looking to connect with other bloggers, check this site first.

Film Advocacy Award
Pure Entertainment…

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Part One of ‘Detour’

It’s a sincere thrill to bring you another B-movie for this week’s Saturday Matinee!

In the interest of mixing things up a bit, I decided to feature a B-movie that actually doesn’t suck works as a film.

Upon first viewing this film, I wasn’t as blown away by it as some others are. However, after watching it a second time, I came to appreciate it much more.

If you’d like to read my reconsidered review of Detour, you can do so by just clicking here.

And now … on with the show!

Part One of Detour!

Is this poster iconic or what? 🙂

Posted in B-Movies, Film Noir, Public Domain Movies, Saturday Matinee | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

My Review of ‘Mystery Street’ (1950)

This movie is unique among the film noir canon in a few ways. Before I get to that, here’s a brief synopsis of the plot.

A blonde bimbo girl named Vivian (played by Jan Sterling) calls a mystery man, complaining that she’s “in a jam” (a Hayes Coded version of pregnant out-of-wedlock). She ends up at a bar after Mystery Man refuses to meet her.

There, she picks up the hapless (and very drunk) Henry Shanway (played by Marshall Thompson). Henry’s drinking heavily, because his wife’s in the hospital following a miscarriage—see the clear parallelism there? 🙂 —and good old Viv takes advantage. She basically commandeers Henry’s car, telling Henry she’s taking him home (or somewhere), but then drives to Cape Cod to meet Mystery Man. When Henry realizes what’s up, he demands to be taken home. But Viv dumps him on the roadside and steals his car. Man, what those pregnancy hormones will do to one’s mood, eh? 🙂

Anyhoo, Vivian meets Mystery Man and gets in his face about her situation. This is obviously really dumb, because she’s all alone with this guy in the middle of nowhere. So he turns the tables and whacks her dumb ass gets rid of her with extreme prejudice, leaving her body buried on the beach.

Meanwhile, Henry walks home (all the way back to Boston). And since his wife was in the hospital, Henry kinda leaves out the gory details and just reports the car stolen. Which it was. Just not from the hospital parking lot. Got that?

Naturally, poor stupid Vivian ends up being discovered. At least her skeleton is found. Enter Lieutenant Peter Morales of the state police, on assignment to the DAs office. Morales teams with the Boston police and a forensics specialist from Harvard Med School to identify the remains and determine what the heck happened.

Now, the reasons this film is notable are:

  • It’s a film noir that has an almost CSI-like plot. The focus on forensics gives this one a unique feel. One I found very appealing.

Ricardo Montalban and Bruce Bennett do weird, criminal science. 🙂

  • Strictly speaking, the film has no femme fatale. I don’t count Vivian, who ends up dead. I also don’t count Vivian’s landlady, Mrs. Smerrling (emphasis on the “r”s 🙂 ) (played with a glint-eyed, gusto by Elsa Lanchester), because she seduces no one. She’s a hoot and a bit of an obnoxious one, but that’s it.

    Hello, sweetie!

  • Lieutenant Morales is played by the awesome Ricardo Montalban. The part represented a real steppingstone in the career of this Mexican-American actor. It also portrayed a Latino character in a decidedly non-stereotypical role.

Looks like a toe dancer’s shoe!

  • Morales’ zeal to catch the perp is ably counterbalanced by the good Harvard Doc McAdoo (played with likable coolness by Bruce Bennett).

Take note of this tiny detail!

Minor spoiler ahead!

  • The bad guy loses and the nice guys win. Yay! 🙂

So, for a film noir, it’s different. But in a good way.

I loved this film and am awarding it five stars!

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Bette Davis for the Defense

Via Pinterest (from “The Case of Constant Doyle”)

As a long-time Perry Mason fan, I know that Raymond Burr had taken time off from playing the eponymous defense attorney for various health reasons. However, until recently, I had no idea that Bette Davis (of all people) had played substitute lawyer in any of those episodes.

But, in fact, she did. In Season Six, Episode 16, “The Case of Constant Doyle”. An odd title considering that Constant Doyle is the attorney, not the subject of criminal prosecution.

In any case, here’s the low-down on this one: a young man, Cal Leonard, gets mixed up in bad business and ends up in the clink. He tries to reach a lawyer who’s not Perry Mason—imagine!—but is Joseph Doyle. Unfortunately for Mr. Doyle, he’s kicked the bucket passed away, but in his place is his (former) wife and law partner, Constant Doyle, who is played with typical eye-rolling panache by Bette Davis.


Now, this is interesting for a couple of reasons. Cal’s initial reaction to having Bette Ms. Doyle show up to spring him from jail is downright hostile. Is it because he was expecting Joseph or because she is a … she?

The other interesting part of what ends up being their attorney-client relationship is Constant’s almost motherly attitude toward Cal. Despite his initial hostility, she coughs up his bail—almost on a lark.

And because this is Perry Mason, their meeting ends up being fateful. The transgression that led to his brief time in jail segues into a scenario in which he is accused of murder. And, of course, who ends up representing him? It can’t be Perry, because he’s in the hospital. (The episode includes a few scenes of Raymond Burr in a hospital bed on the phone. An assurance for the viewers or a refusal to be upstaged by the Grand Mistress of the Eye Roll? 🙂 )

Via MeTV.

The details of the mystery are less important than the relationships that develop between the various characters. Despite every attitude that Cal displays before the trial takes place, Constant takes it in stride with the air of one abiding a recalcitrant teen. Davis portrays the attorney as a woman of intelligence, patience, and enough attitude to show she’s no pushover. I loved that the writers had her interact with not only Paul Drake, but Perry’s faithful secretary, Della Street.

All together now! 🙂

Of course, when it comes to the courtroom, one waits with bated breath to see how this particular attorney stands up in that arena. Constant usually practices transactional law, not litigation.

There is one very believable moment when she stumbles briefly. Hamilton Burger (the prosecutor we either love to hate or feel sorry for) doesn’t hesitate to point out her gaffe, but does so with a politeness that’s either benevolent or condescending. But when all is said and done, Constant rises to the occasion and even engages in a bit of Mason-style courtroom theatrics to clear her client.

In a sense, this episode is not only remarkable for having a talent like Bette Davis play an attorney, but for the way it shows how a female lawyer can use her people skills to work with the client and win the day. So perhaps the episode’s title isn’t all that odd?

The ending is a foregone conclusion. We know Constant will win—it wouldn’t be a proper Perry Mason episode if she didn’t. Maybe the real winner here is Bette Davis, who does such a masterful job of eye-rolling her way into our hearts. Particularly at the end, when she’s says good night to her husband as she closes her office door.

I couldn’t find that on YouTube, but I did find this! 🙂

“Good night, Tuffy.” 🙂

Submitted as part of the Reel Infatuation Blogathon of 2018 co-hosted by Silver Screenings and Font and Frock.

PS: The Saturday Matinee will return next week! Natch! 😉

Posted in Actors, Blogathan, Mystery, Television | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Book Review: ‘Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland’

This book is no hagiography. It reveals in great detail all that was amazing, inspiring, and outright maddening about its subject. And it starts before the woman who would become Judy Garland was born.

Her parents, Frank and Ethel Gumm, were vaudevillians. He from the South, she from the North. Both small town folk who grew up in the theater. They marry and have three daughters. All talented, but the youngest—Baby Frances—was outstanding.

Via Marquette Monthly.

It’s not exactly a secret that Frances Gumm, who would end up changing her name to Judy Garland, was addicted to pills from a young age. What you might not know is how hard her mother, Ethel, worked her. That, in fact, it was Ethel that started her pill-popping.

Ethel Gumm basically saw in Judy the potential for greatness that she couldn’t pull off. The book paints a relatively unsympathetic picture of an ambitious woman, pushing her child harder and harder—treating her more like an appreciable asset than a daughter.

Via Marquette Monthly.

Judy’s father, on the other hand, was (among other things) an admired community theater owner, closet homosexual whose proclivity for young men forced the family to move multiple times, and Judy’s emotional rock compared with her no-nonsense mom. His death left her feeling an abandonment she’d suffer the rest of her life.

But this isn’t just a story about how Mommy Dearest thrust Judy Garland into show business with the aid of pharmaceuticals. Ethel Gumm may have monitored every aspect of young Judy Garland’s life, but as she grew up, the baton of control was passed on to Louis B. Mayer at MGM.

Mayer practiced the J. Edgar Hoover-style method of studio executives. Mayer kept a tight rein over everything that went on at MGM. Including what all his stars were doing. This was multiply true for a rising star like Judy. Initially, Mayer dismissed Judy’s looks as too plain to be those of a star. He’d even call her names, along with governing every aspect of her life.

Singing “The Man Who Got Away” in the 1954 film, “A Star is Born.” (AP Photo)

Is it any wonder that Judy lacked confidence to the point where she felt incomplete without a man? Her daddy issues, the pills, the unforgiving work schedule, and continually being under Mayer’s thumb all contributed to Judy’s increasingly bizarre and unhealthy behavior.

The book includes fascinating behind-the-scenes information about the making of movies like The Wizard of Oz, Easter Parade (which almost paired Gene Kelly with Garland—can you imagine?), A Star Is Born, Meet Me in St. Louis, and other films.

To her misfortune, Judy’s bizarre childhood and lack of self-confidence was underscored by society’s expectations about women at that time. As a result, Garland evolved into something of a hot mess.

It’s tempting to point fingers at her mother or Mayer or any number of enablers, but the harsh truth is, Judy Garland knew she had a problem and chose to behave like a child. Except on those occasions when she reached deep down and made her many amazing comebacks.

Via TCM Archives.

As I said, not a hagiography. And, with all due respect to the talented Ms. Garland, it will be hard to watch those movies with her that I love without pondering her private tragedies again.

This book review is submitted as part of the Second Annual Judy Garland Blogathon hosted by In the Good Old Days of Claasic Hollywood.

Judy Garland Blogathon

You can buy the book on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Apple, and Indiebound. (Includes some affiliate links.)

Posted in Actors, Blogathan, Book Review | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

‘Killers From Space’ – Part Six

And now finally, the big finish to this serialized sci-fi movie!

It’s Part Six of Killers From Space!


Tune in next week, because you never know what you might find here! 🙂

Posted in B-Movies, Public Domain Movies, Saturday Matinee, Science Fiction | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment