Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Cinéma Inhabituel for September 1-15

A Guide to the Rare and Unusual on TCM

By Ed Garea


Now that August is over, we’re back to having a Star of the Month. And this month the star is Gene Hackman, which presents a problem. Hackman is a great actor whose steady presence has brightened up many a film. I’m a big fan of his. But TCM isn’t showing his best. Most of the films they are running are either supporting roles, sub-par productions, or films that have already been run to death on the channel. It’s going to be a short list this month.

September 2 - Bonnie and Clyde (8 pm). 

September 9: The Conversation (8 pm).


This month’s TCM spotlight focuses on a welcome subject (for me at any rate): slapstick comedies.

September 6: The evening is devoted to silents and we begin at 8:00 pm with a wonderful documentary that also serves as a nice introduction: The Golden Age of Comedy (DCA, 1958). It’s a delightful complication of clips from the silent era, featuring Laurel and Hardy, Carole Lombard, Harry Langdon, Charley Chase, Ben Turpin, and Edgar Kennedy, among others. No Chaplin (aside from Tillie’s Punctured Romance, airing at 9:30) or Lloyd. This is DCA, a shoestring distribution company that is most famous for releasing Ed Wood’s magnum opus, Plan 9 From Outer Space. Every film shown this night is worth the time and effort. Silent slapstick was one of the great genres of the silent era, and not only carried over to the sound era, but also to the world of animation. 

A short worth the time is Our Gang (at 4:15 am – TiVo time). This was the first of innumerable follow-ups from Hal Roach; a franchise that kept him in the chips, along with its doppelgänger, The Little Rascals.

September 7: More silent slapstick, highlighted by The Birth of the Tramp (8 pm), an excellent documentary exposing the genesis of one of the most iconic figures in the movies. It’s followed by more Chaplin: A Dog’s Life, from 1918 (9:15) and The Circus, a masterpiece of comedy from 1928 (10:00).

TCM switches gears to bring us two Buster Keaton classics: One Week from 1920 (11:30 pm) and the classic Steamboat Bill Jr. from 1928 (midnight). Then it’s on to a watchable documentary on Harold Lloyd, Harold Lloyd's World of Comedy (1:15 am), followed by two prime examples of Lloyd at his best: Number, Please? (3:00 am), and Speedy (3:30).

September 13: We enter the Sound Era with a mixed bag. At 9:00 pm is the classic Laurel and Hardy Sons of the Desert from 1933, a film whose title is the name of the Laurel and Hardy fan club. It’s followed at 10:15 by the excellent, but seldom seen The Music Box, from 1935.

At 11 pm, it’s the Marx Brothers in A Night at the Opera (1935), followed by a lesser Wheeler and Woolsey effort, Hips Hips, Hooray (1934) at 12:45.

September 14: A full menu starts withe the best at 8 pm – W.C. Fields in the impeccable The Bank Dick, from 1940. It’s followed at 9:30 by the film that revived Abbott and Costello’s flagging career: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). At 11 pm, it’s Red Skelton’s uneven A Southern Yankee (1948), and at 12:45 Danny Kaye in The Inspector General (1949). The night closes with the rotten Milton Berle vehicle Always Leave them Laughing (1949) and the subtly hilarious The Palm Beach Story (1942) from the one and only Preston Sturges. 


September 8: At 8 pm, it’s Tugboat Mickey (1940) with Donald Duck and Goofy, followed by Boat Builders (1938), with Mickey, Donald and Goofy discovering that building a boat is much harder than it looks. 


September 1: Spend an evening with the sublime Preston Sturges as six of his films are being aired beginning with The Lady Eve (1941) at 8 pm. At the horrendous hour of 3:15 am comes one of his funniest and most underrated comedies The Great McGinty (1940), required viewing this election season.

September 5: At 8 pm, it’s D.W. Griffith’s 1916 epic, Intolerance, a favorite of my good friend Karen Belcher.

September 11: Director Masaki Kobayashi is honored with a double-feature beginning at 2:00 am. First up is Harakiri (1963), an excellent samurai film about an aging samurai out for revenge on those who drove his son-in-law to suicide. At 4:15, it’s followed by Samurai Rebellion (1967). Set in 18th century Japan, it opens with the banishment from court of Ichi (Yoko Tsukasa), mistress to Lord Matsudaira (Tatsuo Matsumura) who made the unforgivable mistake of slapping her master for taking on another mistress. To complicate matters, court official and master swordsman Isaburo Sasahara (Toshiro Mifune) is ordered to arrange the marriage of his son Yogoro (Takeshi Kato) to Ichi. His fears prove unfounded as she proves to be a perfect wife and daughter-in-law, blessing him with a granddaughter that he looks upon as his own child. A couple of years later, however, Matsudaira recalls Ichi to court as his eldest son has died, and as she is the mother of the Lord’s heir, it would not be fitting for her to remain married to a mere vassal. I won’t reveal any more, but suffice it to stay that the worst thing one can do in a samurai film is to make Mifune mad. It’s a wonderful and engrossing film, providing a solid window into the culture of 18th century Japan.


September 8: Wheeler and Woolsey play two tramps turned fortune tellers who try to solve a kidnapping in 1930’s The Cuckoos (7:30 am). At 2:30 pm, we recommend the comedy, I Like Your Nerve, from Warner’s in 1931, with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Loretta Young. 

September 9: At 6:15 am, Lord Byron of Broadway (1930), with Cliff Edwards followed by Those Three French Girls (1930), again with Cliff Edwards. Neither film is worth getting excited about, but they are and worth seeing for that reason.

September 14: Bill Boyd stars in the World War 1 drama Beyond Victory (1931) at 8:45 am.


September 2: Spend a delightful day with The Falcon as 11 films are aired, beginning at 6:15 am with the first in the series, 1941’s The Gay Falcon. The genesis of the series lay in the fact that Leslie Charteris withdrew RKO’s rights to The Saint, claiming quite correctly that the films were of diminishing quality. Not to be outdone, the studio simply bought the rights to Michael Arlen’s short story, Gay Falcon. Though that was the character’s full name, RKO decided to change it to Gay Laurence, while keeping “The Falcon” as his crime-solving moniker, though its origin is never explained. The plots of the Falcon series were indistinguishable from those of The Saint – only the names have changed. Sanders stick around for the first four movies before giving way to his brother, Tom Conway, who helmed the series until its demise in 1946. All in all, RKO made a total of 14 Falcon adventures. In 1948, Poverty Row producer Philip N. Krasne attempted to revive the series through his Falcon Pictures Corporation. The films were released by Film Classics. The character’s name was changed to Michael Watling and he was played by John Calvert. Three films were made and released that year: Devil’s CargoAppointment With Murder, and Search For Danger, all to the sound of crickets in the theater. The Falcon later made it to television in 1954, where he was played by Charles McGraw. 

September 3: At 10:30 am, the Bowery Boys enter the world of wrestling in No Holds Barred (1952). Beginning at 2 am. it’s a double-feature of Zardoz (1974) followed by Logan’s Run (1975) at 4 am. 

September 4: At 12:30 pm, it’s the one and only Dracula, with Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye in brilliant performances that typecast the two of them for the rest of their careers. At 2 am, it’s double feature of European road films, beginning at 2 am with the wonderful Il Sorpasso (1961) and continuing with critic’s darling Jim Jarmusch and his Stranger Than Paradise (1984). For those who must choose between the two, opt for the former.

September 6: Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever at 8:30 am. He really needs Dad to talk him out of this one, as he falls hard for his drama teacher.

September 10: At 8:15 am, Allison Hayes terrorizes a small California town in the 1958 psychotronic classic Attack of the 50-Foot Woman. (Read our review here.)

Blaxploitation lives! At 2:00 am, Fred Williamson tames a town in the Old West in Boss from 1975. Right after at 4:00 am, Fred returns as a private eye in Black Eye from 1974.

September 12: A tribute to composer John Williams includes a showing of Jaws at 8 pm.

Monday, August 29, 2016

TCM TiVo Alert for September 1-7

September 1–September 7


BALL OF FIRE (September 4, 6:00 pm): Barbara Stanwyck is a hot nightclub performer hiding from the police and her mob boyfriend in a house with brilliant, eccentric professors writing an encyclopedia. Director Howard Hawks – with the assistance of Billy Wilder, who co-wrote the screenplay from one of his short stories – does a great job blending the two worlds together to make an outstanding romantic comedy. The main professor, Bertram Potts (played by Gary Cooper), is focusing his work on American slang. The slang of 1941 is dated, but the scenes that have Potts learning the slang words of the day from Stanwyck's character, Sugarpuss, are hysterical with Cooper doing an excellent job as the straight man. Also of note are the wonderful acting performances of the other professors, all who are considerably older than Potts. It's a funny, entertaining film that leaves the viewer with a smile on his/her face for most of the movie.

GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS (September 6, 6:30 am): 1939 was among cinema's greatest years with the releases of Gone With the WindNinotchkaOf Mice and MenWizard of OzMr. Smith Goes to WashingtonStagecoachWuthering Heights, and Dark Victory to name a few. But among all of them, Goodbye, Mr. Chips is my favorite. It's a sweet, sentimental, touching story about a stern school master, Charles Chipping – Mr. Chips for short – and how he wins the affection of his students after falling in love and marrying Kathy Ellis (Greer Garson). The cast is wonderful, but Robert Donat (one of cinema's most underrated actors) in the lead, a role that won him an Academy Award, is outstanding. 


SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS (September 1, 9:45 pm): This film is rightly said to be writer/director Preston Sturges’s masterpiece. John L. Sullivan is a noted director of light musical fare such as Ants in Your Plants of 1939 and Hey, Hey in the Hayloft. However, he wants to make an Important Film, and he has one in mind, namely O Brother, Where Art Thou, a leaden novel concerned with the struggle between Capital and Labor. The studio execs pooh-pooh it, noting that he grew up rich and never suffered. So, Sullivan sets out to see how the other half lives, and ends up with far more than he bargained for when everybody assumes he died. It’s both hilarious and touching with many insights from Sturges into the human ego versus the human condition. It’s best to record it to be seen again later – and you will definitely want to see it again.

CABARET (September 3, 8:00 pm): Bob Fosse directed this musical adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories, in particular his short story “Sally Bowles,” about the lives of three people in early ‘30s decadent Berlin before the even more decadent Nazis came to power. Although the film fails to completely capture the magic of the stories, it does weave a magic of its own, especially with its tour of Berlin nightlife. Liza Minnelli has never been better than as Sally Bowles, an amoral singer of some talent who leads a completely disorganized life. Correction, Minnelli has never been as good as she was as Sally Bowles. But it’s Joel Grey as the enigmatic emcee who steals the movie as the film cuts to his sketches frequently. One of the highlights of the tilm is the young storm trooper leading a gathering in a rendition of “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” a song supposed by many to be a genuine Nazi anthem, but in actuality written for the stage musical. It’s too good to be a Nazi anthem. Listen to the Nazi anthems of the time and you’ll quickly agree, as they’re a collection of bad tunes and nonsensical, violent words. The film won eight Oscars.

WE DISAGREE ON ... GREY GARDENS (September 4, 10:30 am)

ED: A+. This is the film that brought the Maysles Brothers to the attention of the American filmgoing public, and ranks as one of my favorite films. Although many believe the film was inspired by the famous New York Magazine portrait of the Beales and Grey Gardens by Gail Sheehy, the truth is that the Maysles brothers met the Beales after being hired by Lee Radziwill to make a film about her childhood in East Hampton, N.Y. She brought them to Grey Gardens, where they met the Beales. When they suggested to Radziwill that the focus of the film should be the Beales, she withdrew their funding and confiscated the film they had shot. Grey Gardens is an amazing film, thanks to the Beales, a mother and daughter who put the “eccentric” in eccentricity. The Maysles use their “direct cinema” system to show us the Beales in all their glory and squalor, though they take the direct cinema method one step further by interacting with their hosts, accepting drinks and hors d’oeuvres. The film is also unusual in that it’s not really interested in how the Beales came to live in such squalor, despite their background and social connections. The film is more interested in bringing us deeper and deeper into the Beales’ world. One critic noted quite perceptibly that the mansion is like the Overlook Hotel in The Shining in that it has an almost supernatural hold over its inhabitants and prohibits them from leaving. In an ironic way, the Beales are not only confined to their home, but are confined by their home. In the end we are left with more questions than answers. Why did the Beales, a pair of shut-ins, allow the camera to display their madness, their loneliness and a desperate co-dependent relationship? Why do they constantly talk of propriety, the way things should and must be done, and yet allow themselves to be seen in a state of squalor? Does it have something to do with exhibitionism, with a past where they were the centers of attention by adoring men? Again these questions are never answered, but we don’t mind in the least, for once we walk past the front door and into the mansion, we become besotted with the Beales and their world. We are both repulsed and hopelessly drawn in, anxiously awaiting the next argument between the two in a series that almost seems rehearsed, as if they’re performing for the camera. This is an amazing and addictive documentary about a time long ago and post to history. In its bizarreness, it’s almost akin to an explorer discovering a lost tribe shut off from the rest of the world and living in a world of its own. That’s what makes this so attractive. In a 2014 poll of the best documentaries ever made by Sight and Sound, film critics voted this in a tie for ninth on the list. Considering the other films on the list, that’s quite an honor.

DAVID: B. I have to admit to being somewhat intimidated by Ed's review of this film. Besides having great respect for Ed, he did an excellent job of passionately articulating his arguments for why this is one of his favorite films. I'm a fan of this documentary, as noted by the solid B grade I gave it, and also believe the Maysles were excellent filmmakers. I prefer two of the Maysles brothers' earlier films, Gimme Shelter and Salesman, to Grey Gardens. But I was still concerned about my grade after reading Ed's glowing praise of the film. So what did I do? I watched it again – closely – a few days ago. There is no doubt it's a good film, and the Maysles brothers had a fascinating style of shooting documentaries, but there are flaws that made me comfortable with my B grade. First, the film doesn't properly inform you about "Big Edie" and her daughter, "Little Edie" Beale so it's difficult at times to understand what's going on. In a brief scene, there are a handful of newspaper clippings about the mother and daughter. The articles let viewers know that they are the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, they used to be rich and own Grey Gardens – a rundown mansion in wealthy East Hampton, N.Y. – that Onassis and her sister, Lee Radziwill, agreed to restore the structure after its poor condition attracted the media's attention, and that the Maysles are doing a documentary on the pair. Despite the work done at the expense of Onassis and Radziwill, the house is in terrible disrepair again and the two Beales are suffering from mental ailments. Big Edie is elderly (80 when the film came out and dead two years later) and likely senile while Little Edie, a former socialite and model, is only about 58 years old, but seems much older and is living in the past having lost touch with reality. She is vain even though her looks are gone, and is prone to fits of anger. The two of them talk over each other as the Maysles prompt them to discuss their lives. They are willing to do so, but it just brings on pain and a lot of random singing of old songs. The film sometimes is exploitative as the Maysles know there's several things wrong with the Beales, but they keep shooting. Little Edie whispers bizarre conspiracy theories, is resentful of her mother, does a dance with an American flag, and parades around in skimpy outfits even though she seems disgusted with her looks, particularly when she steps on a scale and uses binoculars to see she's 145 pounds. Also, the brothers just allow the Beales to keep talking even though a lot of what they say makes no sense. If the idea was to capture two former rich people living lives of delusion then the goal was achieved. But if the goal was to keep the viewer engaged and interested, it's a mixed bag.

For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

By Steve Herte

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (Universal, 2016) – Director: Kirk Jones. Writer: Nia Vardalos. Stars: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Michael Constantine, Lainie Kazan, Andrea Martin, Gia Carides, Joey Fatone, Elena Kampouris, Alex Wolff, Louis Mandylor, Bess Meisler, Bruce Gray, Fiona Reid, Ian Gomez, Mark Margolis, & Jayne Eastwood. Color, Rated PG-13, 94 minutes.

As the saying goes, “the exception proves the rule.” In this case, the rule is that sequels are never as good as the original movie. There is a glaring example of an exception here.

Toula Portokalos-Miller (Vardalos), the bride in the first movie, and her husband Ian Miller (Corbett) are in a pair of new situations. Their daughter Paris (Kampouris) is graduating high school and is threatening to attend college as far away as she can get from the clinging Portokalos family, who, by the way are not only closely related, they live within three houses of one another. Paris feels smothered by relatives trying to find her a Greek boyfriend.

Meanwhile, Kostas “Gus” Portokalos (Constantine), Toula’s dad, has had enough of the jibes from friends that he’s not a direct descendant of Alexander the Great. After several agonizing sessions with various tech-savvy relatives, he learns how to research online and in the process finds his marriage certificate. To his ultimate horror, he discovers the blank line at the bottom where the priest should have signed, making the document binding. The family is shocked but not his wife Maria (Kazan). She takes the news of not being officially married lightly and demands that, if Gus wants to be married, he should propose. (His first attempt was merely a requirement that she accompany him to America.)

Gus refuses, but when an argument lands him on a gurney heading toward a hospital, he proposes properly. Maria and her female relatives hire a wedding planner and so horrify her with their outlandish choices of cake, dresses, venue and band that the wedding planner fires Maria. In a way, this is a good thing. The family dry cleaning business is no longer and only the restaurant, “The Dancing Zorbas,” still exists, making an extravagant wedding unaffordable.

Already too involved with “fixing” things to the point of disrupting her own marriage, Toula gathers the whole family, including Ian’s parents Rodney Miller (Gray) and Harriet (Reid) and, organized by Maria’s sister, Aunt Voula (Martin), they assume the various responsibilities to plan the wedding. Gus’ brother Panos (Margolis) is even flown in from Greece.

Meanwhile, it’s prom time for Paris and she sees the jockeying around among the male students for prom dates. She takes the opportunity to ask the seemingly shy Bennett (Wolff) and he accepts. Ian and Toula are ecstatic.

The developments of the two plots are what give this movie the most hilarious elements. The cake has a virtual rainbow of colors, Cousin Angelo’s (Fatone) partner Patrick is also his romantic partner, the limousines are replaced by police cars and the wedding almost doesn’t happen because Gus drinks too much ouzo.

Maybe it’s because the majority of actors are actually Greek in this film that the characters are so completely believable and funny. Even John Stamos has a small role as George. My favorite was grandmother Mana-Yiayia (Meisler), who says more with gestures than words – very funny.

Even the soundtrack conforms with the comedy of this delightful movie. At one point we hear the song “White Wedding” by Billy Idol sung in Greek. Though not particularly a film for children, this sequel is perfectly clean and inoffensive. I enjoyed it immensely. Lainie Kazan was wonderful and Andrea Martin was superb (as she was in the first movie).

Rating: 4 out of 5 Martini glasses.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Sea Bat

Films in Focus

By Ed Garea

The Sea Bat (MGM, 1930) – Directors: Wesley Ruggles, Lionel Barrymore. Writers: Dorothy Yost (story), Bess Meredyth, John Howard Lawson (s/p). Stars: Raquel Torres, Charles Bickford, Nils Asther, George F. Marion, John Miljan, Boris Karloff, Gibson Gowland, Edmund Breese, Mathilde Comont, & Mack Swain. B&W, 73 minutes.

The Sea Bat is a film that should have been better than it was, being as it was written by Bess Meredith and John Howard Lawson. But somewhere along the way it ran afoul of MGM management as director Wesley Ruggles was suddenly replaced by Lionel Barrymore. Why, we don’t know. But it may have had something to do with cost overruns, as Wesley filmed on location along Mexico’s Mazatlán coast and Barrymore’s scenes are indoors, particularly the diving scenes, which were shot in the studio tank.

Set on an island in the West Indies, the opening lines let us know what we’re in for: "Portuga island … through the night, the weird chants of voodoo worship … through the day, the weird industry of sponge fishing ..." However the film is not nearly as exotic as the opening lines would indicate, as it follows the the lives of the men who make their living as sponge divers. One of the perils of their trade is the “sea bat,” a huge manta ray that terrorizes the divers and gives audiences something to thrill over.

In the opening scenes, Nina (Torres) offers a pagan talisman to her beloved brother Carl (Asther) as he is going out on his morning sponge dive. Carl turns it away, showing Nina his cross and telling her he doesn’t need any voodoo for protection. The cast doesn’t know it yet, but this is to be Carl’s last dive, as he falls victim to the sea bat.

Nina is devastated. In despair, she turns to the voodoo rites of the natives, throwing herself in wholeheartedly. She also offers herself as the wife to whoever manages to kill the sea bat. While this is going on, the Reverend Sims (Bickford) arrives on the island to replace the outgoing reverend. But Sims is no reverend, he is actually John Dennis, an escapee from Devil’s Island in disguise. Nina’s father, Antone (Marion), the island’s mayor, is especially pleased to see the new reverend, as the island has been in need of spiritual guidance since the old reverend departed. But Sims is very reluctant to take up his pastoral duties; he’d rather be left alone. Antone, however, wants him to reform Nina and Sims agrees to give it a try. As he tries to save Nina’s soul, the two become strangely attracted to each other and fall in love. He tells her his real identity and they plan to escape the island by way of a motorboat.

However, Juan (Miljan), the villain of the piece, has figured out the reverend’s identity, and along with cohort Limey (Gowland) subdue Sims and tie him up. While they are taking him by boat back to Devil’s Island for the reward they are attacked by the sea bat. Both Juan and Limey are killed, while Sims makes it back to shore and a reunion with Nina. The episode has shocked the goodness back into Sims. He tells Nina he’s going back to give himself up and serve out his term. She tells him she will go with him and wait as the picture ends.

It’s a pretty straightforward plot; unfortunately much of the characterization necessary to fill in the blanks leaves us wanting. As Nina, Torres acquits herself well. She is a familiar character to those who are fans of these types of adventures: the Exotic. The Exotic is always a woman, a femme fatale – beautiful, mysterious, with a hidden agenda which the hero must discover before it engulfs him. In the early days of sound, the Exotic played a large role as movies took their audiences away from the humdrum of everyday life to new ports of imagination. Quite a few actresses got their start playing this type, including Lupe Velez and Myrna Loy. (Velez even did a parody of the character in the 1934 spoof Hollywood Party, playing The Jaguar Woman to Jimmy Durante’s “Schnarzan the Conquerer.”)

The fad died down in the ‘30s, only to be reinvigorated in the ‘40s, with jungle adventures aplenty. Who can forget Hedy Lamarr in 1942’s White Cargo with her famous line, “I am Tondelayo?” Even stripper Ann Corio got in on the act in PRC’s Jungle Siren (1942) and Monogram’s Call of the Jungle (1944). However, being as this is a Pre-Code film, Torres gets to flash a lot more flesh, at one point giving us quite a peek during a wet t-shirt type of scene (get a load of what’s not under the blouse) where she fights off would-be rapists Juan and Limey with a knife. And only in a Pre-Code film could she so blatantly offer herself as the reward to whoever destroys the sea bat. One thing that has always befuddled me is: why she didn’t have a bigger career? Latinas were in demand for movies during this time (Velez and Dolores Del Rio had good careers at this point), and yet the only thing she is somewhat famous for was playing Vera Marcal in Duck Soup with the Marx Brothers.

The movie’s other lead, Charles Bickford, doesn’t come off as well as Torres. After glowing reviews for his roles in Cecil DeMille’s first talkie, Dynamite (1929) and Anna Christie, opposite Garbo, Bickford seems to have squandered his capital with this performance, as he comes off rather lifeless and disinterested. I recall reading that he was a last-minute replacement for the ailing Lon Chaney, so perhaps the lack of preparation accounts for it. But considering that his talkie career began as a leading man, he quickly moved his way down the ladder to character actor and B-movie headliner in only a few years.

The problem with Bickford’s character as the “reverend” was his extreme reluctance to perform his ministerial duties; very odd since he came to the island as the pastor. But we are never let in on why he is so reluctant and the only thing I can surmise is that the studio didn’t want any trouble with censors over a phony playing a man of the cloth. This may be the case, for as the movie wears on, his character seems to be transformed from carrying around his pocket Bible. On the other hand, were Bickford’s character a real man of the cloth, we might have wound up with a pale imitation of W. Somerset Maugham’s Sadie Thompson, which Raoul Walsh and Gloria Swanson brought to the screen in 1928. (It was remade by Lewis Milestone and Joseph M. Schenck as Rain in 1932 starring Joan Crawford and Walter Huston.) His scenes with Torres are half-and-half – she’s convincing, he isn’t.

George F. Marion steals the film as Antone, the father of Carl and Nina. He is the island’s governor/mayor who also seems to double as the town drunk. Marion displays just the right mixture of officialdom and corruption as he tries to convince the islanders of his position and tries convince barman Dutchy (Swain) of his right to a free drink. John Miljan is his usual villainous self as Juan, and Gibson Gowland, who starred in Von Stroheim’s ill-fated Greed, is fine as Limey. As for Karloff, look quickly or you’ll miss him. Silent star Nils Asther, in his first talkie, also has a role that is all too brief. We aren’t given a chance to see how well he can do in the realm of talkies. And Mack Swain, known mainly as the adversary of Charlie Chaplin, makes for a good, blustery and tough Dutchy.

The unsung star of the film is the sea bat itself. Given the times, it’s a fine example of f/x work on the part of the studio. In reality, a manta ray is a gentle creature, but appearances are everything, so it made for quite a frightening monster, though from the way it’s photographed, it looks more like a shark than a ray. The only glitch is the scene where the manta ray bears down on Carl – we can see that Carl has been replaced by a doll. But the scene is mercifully brief and does not detract from the fun.

Give cinematographer Ira Morgan props for some fine photography, especially in the scenes with the sea bat. Barrymore handles the indoor scenes and the love scenes between Bickford and Torres with his usual professionalism, though the way he photographed her rather unconvincing voodoo dance leaves much to be desired. 

For those Pre-Code fans out there, The Sea Bat is definitely worth the time. Other will enjoy it also, especially as it has not aged well and now comes off as a camp folly. Everything else aside, the chance to see Raquel Torres prancing around half-naked singing the song “Lo-Lo” a cappella is worth the price of admission alone. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

The BFG (Amblin/Disney, 2016) – Director: Steven Spielberg. Writers: Melisa Matheson (s/p), Roald Dahl (book). Stars: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jermaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Adam Godley, Michael Adamthwaite, Daniel Bacon, Jonathan Holmes, Chris Gibbs, Paul Moniz de Sa, & Marilyn Norry. Color, Rated PG, 117 minutes.

After the Orphanage Matron (Norry) fails to secure all the locks on the front door and leaves half the mail on the floor, we see Sophie (Barnhill) wrapped in a quilt, tip-toe down the main staircase to complete the unfinished tasks. In her monologue, we learn that the “Witching Hour” is not necessarily midnight, or even one or two o’clock. It’s three in the morning, the hour that only Sophie is awake, that she returns to her bed with a flashlight and her copy of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens. The other children in three rows of beds are fast asleep. Sophie’s bed is the last one in the center row, nearest the window.

Suddenly, she hears a clatter in the street below and she recites her mantra, “Do not get out of bed…(she does)…Do not go to the window…(she does)…Do not look behind the curtains…(again, she does)…and do not look over the railing!” She finds a few cats have overturned a garbage can.

However, a huge hand appears from around the corner and uprights the garbage can.

The giant (Rylance) hears her gasp, knows he’s been seen and plucks her from her bed, quilt and all, and speedily runs back to Giantland, which is somewhere in the North Sea, beyond Scotland.

Sophie learns that the giant doesn’t want to eat her (as most giants would), but instead eats a noxious stew made from the ugliest cucumber ever (called a snozzcumber). She understands that he’s friendly and because he wants to go about in secret, he kidnapped her to remain unseen. She redubs him BFG for Big Friendly Giant (he never reveals his true name).

Sophie soon discovers that BFG is the runt of a litter of 10 giants who refer to him as “Runt,” and are big enough to carry him like a doll. They have names: Fleshlumpeater (Clement), Bloodbottler (Hader), Maidmasher (Ólafsson), Manhugger (Godley), Butcher Boy (Adamthwaite), Childchewer (Holmes), Gizzardgulper (Gibbs) and Meatdripper (Moniz de Sa), and they do eat children.

BFG’s “job” is catching dreams in Dreamland and blowing them through his trumpet to sleeping people. But when Sophie insists on accompanying him on a hunting foray, the other giants find her quilt and smell her on it. They know BFG is harboring a “bean” (their word for a ‘being’) and when BFG takes Sophie back to London, they figure out his source of their ‘food’ and follow. What to do? Enlist the services of Queen Elizabeth II (Wilton), her aide, Mary (Hall), and Head of Household Mr. Tibbs (Spall). But this plan requires the revelation of the BFG.

The book, written in 1982 by Roald Dahl, was made into an animated film in 1989. This amazing live-action film’s screenplay comes from the pen of the late Melissa Mathison. Under Steven Spielberg’s able direction and with John Williams spectacular musical talents, this remarkably sensitive film needed a telephone book of people working on its stunning visual effects. I remember back when King Kong’s finger bent backward with the struggles of the beauty he caught. Not here. The giants are as real as Sophie and the close-ups are simply mind-boggling.

Frankly, I expected this movie to be silly, and in some short scenes, it was. But the sheer genius behind the production, the message behind the near-gibberish (you can understand it, but it sounds like Jabberwocky) spoken by the BFG and the superior acting by Mark Rylance and Ruby Barnhill bring this fantasy into reality. There was teary pathos and laugh-till-you-cry visual comedy. Even the most cynical child would be entertained. I know I will still laugh uncontrollably whenever I remember the green brew frobscottle, the volatile potable with downward-fizzing bubbles and explosive “Whizpopping” after-effect. My favorite line? “Dreams are short on the outside, but long on the inside.”

Rating: 4 out of 5 Martini glasses.

Paramount Bar & Grill
235 W. 46th St., In the Paramount HotelNew York

The term “Hotel Restaurant” evokes shudders in some reviewers. They are often known for spotty service, so-so food and cheesy décor. But we all know it’s the exception that proves the rule.

The classy glass and brass awning over the entrance to the Paramount Hotel in midtown Manhattan raises expectations. The soft gold lighting and elegant use of mirrors and black walls makes it an inviting place to stay.

The young man at the station gave me a choice of two tables. I chose the one with more light and was seated on a comfortable gray leather banquette. The operative word at Paramount is comfort. Though obviously a bar, it’s also a stress-relieving lounge. There is an arty silver-gray wine rack on the wall facing the bar. The black, bare-topped tables melt into the overall décor and the white cloth napkins and stemmed water glasses add to the relaxed atmosphere.

My server Thomas arrived shortly and asked if I wanted a cocktail. Though the “Smoky Scotsman” was an attractive brew I went with my favorite martini when Thomas confirmed the availability of Beefeaters gin. It was well-chilled and well mixed.

When Thomas returned, I had chosen a salad but was torn between two main courses. He recommended one over the other but asked if I was really hungry because it was a large portion. I assured him I would pace myself.

While Thomas was registering my order, another server brought a silver basket with warm rolls resting on a napkin and the butter dish on the side. He noticed my finished cocktail and asked if I wanted another. I told him I was switching to wine and had a salad coming. He recommended the 2010 Chardonnay from the Santa Barbara Winery, California. A crisp, well-chilled, golden wine, it went perfectly with my Baby Spinach Salad.

My eyes popped from their sockets at the main course; a 14 oz. Berkshire Pork Chop, sizzling and beautifully browned. It sat majestically on a bed of bright green broccolini in a whole grain mustard cream sauce. It was a good five inches in diameter and a little over an inch thick. The meat was tender and white, not too dry, and savory where browned. I succeeded in slowing down and finished it.

The side dish, called “O’Brien’s Potato Hash,” was way different from hash-browns. Bite-sized wedges of baked potato along with chopped red and yellow peppers and a small dish of homemade catsup. Served Brit-style on faux newspaper, it was kitschy as well as delicious.

Thomas wondered if I had any room left for dessert and I asked him for a recommendation. The “Pastry Bread Pudding” caught my eye and that was his advice. The fluffy pudding was topped with a substantial scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with caramel. It was good, but it was the only dish I didn’t finish. Thomas asked why. “Needs bourbon,” I replied. A double espresso later and my Paramount dinner was finished. I may even try to stay at the Paramount on my next stay-cation.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

TCM TiVo Alert for August 23-31

August 23–August 31


THE MASK OF FU MANCHU (August 26, 10:15 am): This 1932 Pre-Code movie is a joy to watch for many reasons. It's an entertaining film, the acting is very good, and the casting couldn't be more absurd. Boris Karloff plays the sinister Fu Manchu who is looking for the tomb of Genghis Khan to take his mask and sword and lead a rising of his fellow Asians to destroy the white race. Myrna Loy is great – and really, really hot – as his obedient and completely subservient daughter who Manchu mistreats to such extremes that it becomes funny. One of the best scenes in the film has Sir Lionel Barton (Lawrence Grant) placed underneath a large ringing bell as a form of torture to get him to break down and provide Manchu with the location of Khan's tomb. Manchu also has a death ray that is used against him. It's a lot of fun and only 68 minutes in length.

GASLIGHT (August 29, 12:00 am): As a huge fan of Joseph Cotten and Ingrid Bergman, it's great to see that when the two teamed together in this 1944 film that the result was spectacular. (Unfortunately, the chemistry between the two wasn't nearly as good when they worked together on Alfred Hitchcock's Under Capricorn five years later.) Gaslight has fantastic pacing, starting slowly planting the seeds of Bergman's potential insanity and building to a mad frenzy with Cotten's Scotland Yard inspector saving the day and Bergman gaining revenge. While Charles Boyer has never been a favorite of mine, he is excellent in this role as Bergman's scheming husband who is slowly driving her crazy. Also deserving of praise is Angela Lansbury – I'm not a fan of her either – in her film debut as the couple's maid. Lansbury has the hots for Boyer and nothing but disdain for Bergman. A well-acted, well-directed film that is one I always enjoy viewing no matter how many times I see it.


THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (August 26, 9:30 pm): In my opinion, this is the greatest horror film ever made, though the way James Whale directs it, it could also be seen as a black comedy. One of the decisions he made – to have the monster speak – was derided at the time and for a while later, but now is rightly regarded as a brilliant move on Whale’s part. It gives the monster a touch of humanity and frees him, for a time at least, from merely becoming the automaton he was to become in later films.

THE GREAT ESCAPE (August 27, 8:00 pm): Based on one of the biggest mass escapes from a POW camp in World War II, it boasts an all-star cast that includes James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen, James Donald, James Coburn, and Charles Bronson. The plot is relatively simple: The Nazis have built an escape-proof camp to which every escape artist is being sent to stop them from even thinking about another attempt. But the duty of every prisoner is to escape, and this lot is up to the task. It’s a great film that never stops moving with a plot that adds new obstacles and challenges to the prisoners’ dilemma. Attenborough is “The Big X,” a veteran escape artist whose arrival sets the plot in motion. The film also solidified the image of Steve McQueen as the King of Cool through his portrayal of the individualistic prisoner Hilts, as witnessed by the scene near the end when he attempts to jump a border fence with a stolen motorcycle. This is also a film that one can watch numerous times without getting bored. Watch for the scene where the Germans catch Attenborough and Gordon Jackson. It’s one of the best ironic scenes in the history of the movies. Also keep an eye on James Garner and Donald Pleasance and the chemistry between them. The Great Escape is one of those rare movies that comes along every once in a while where the audience is entertained through the use of intelligent plotting and restrained performances. That’s the main reason I have watched it numerous times, even though I’m not exactly a Steve McQueen fan.


ED: B-. Once upon a time there was a director named Jean-Luc Godard. At first, he made some unusual and interesting films, their popularity resting in their novelty. But soon, like other young upper middle-class people of Europe in the ‘60s he became entranced by left-wing politics and it came to infect his films in the worst way, eventually dominating them, subjugating the story to ideology. This is one of the first films along his road to the political and suffers because of it. On the surface, it’s a love story about a disillusioned young man (Jean-Pierre Leaud) just released from national service. As his girlfriend (Chantel Goya) doggedly pursues her dream of becoming a pop singer, he becomes isolated from his friends and peers and becomes ever increasingly radicalized. The interaction between Leaud and Goya is sweet, and if it weren’t for the politics, this could easily pass for a Truffaut film. But Godard wants to subvert and politicize us, which accounts for long boring stretches in the film as Leaud acts out. Ingmar Bergman was no fan of Godard, and his opinion of the film is as follows: “I’ve never gotten anything out of his movies. They have felt constructed, faux intellectual, and completely dead. Cinematographically uninteresting and infinitely boring. Godard is a f***ing bore. He’s made his films for the critics. One of the movies, Masculin, Féminin, was shot here in Sweden. It was mind-numbingly boring.” I don’t feel as harshly toward Godard as Bergman did, but this film represents his descent from making offbeat, novel films into long, boring monographs for the critics.

DAVID: A-. Ed is largely correct in his assessment of director Jean-Luc Godard's career. His early films – particularly his debut BreathlessMy Life to Live, Contempt and Band of Outsiders – are among the most interesting movies made in the early 1960s. While Francois Truffaut is the best and most consistent director of the French New Wave, Godard was the most daring. That meant as he moved into the mid-1960s and for about a decade, his films ranged from excellent to terrible with several of them, as Ed points out, too focused on left-wing politics. Godard sacrificed quality for a disjointed message. Godard hasn't made many movies in the past 30 years, and those he's done are film collages that I simply don't understand. They are painful to watch so I typically turn them off after about 30 or 40 minutes – and I rarely stop watching any film, much less works done by directors as good as Godard. As for those films he directed between 1965 and 1975, Godard made some great ones. That leads me to Masculin Feminin. While there are some flaws, this film along with Made in U.S.A. (both from 1966), are as good as anything Godard directed. Jean-Pierre Leaud, who was such an incredible talent, is spectacular as Paul, an idealist looking for a job while dating Madeleline (Chantel Goya), a budding pop singer, who doesn't share Paul's passion. It's free-flowing with dialogue that jumps from one topic to another as Godard's quick cuts do the same. The acting is spectacular, hiding that the film's plot is almost nonexistent. Actually, the story is secondary to the film's words, which blend dark humor with pop-culture references and politics (though it is kept significantly more in check here than in Godard's other films of this era) and a guy just looking to get laid by a pretty girl. It's a sexy, compelling avant-garde film that Godard should have made more of during the past 50 years.

For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Hot Rhythm

The B-Hive

By Ed Garea

Hot Rhythm (Monogram, 1944) – Director: William Beaudine. Writers: Tim Ryan & Charles R. Marion. Cast: Dona Drake, Robert Lowery, Tim Ryan, Irene Ryan, Sidney Miller, Jerry Cooper, Harry Langdon, Robert Kent, Lloyd Ingraham, Cyril Ring, Joan Curtis, Paul Porcasi. B&W, 79 minutes.

Imagine, a film – and a musical, yet – starring both Irene Ryan and former silent comic Harry Langdon. Only on Poverty Row.

Jimmy O’Brien (Lowery) and Sammy Rubin (Miller) work for the Beacon Recording Company. They write jingles for radio commercials, but would like to graduate to songwriting and the raise that comes with the position. 

Jimmy literally runs into Mary Adams (Drake) in the hallway. She has just finished singing one of his jingles in a commercial. Head over heels, he poses as a songwriter and tells her he can introduce her to Herman Strohbach (Kent), the manager of the Tommy Taylor band. Strohbach is looking for a girl singer to audition. However, complications arise because Strohbach and Taylor (Cooper) are locked in a dispute over a new contract with Beacon boss J.P. O’Hara (Tim Ryan).

Jimmy has an idea: he’ll make a demo record of Mary so O’Hara can hear it the following day. Lacking a band, he records Mary singing along with Taylor’s band on a live radio broadcast. Afterward, he gives the demo to Sammy, who leaves it for pressing. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Whiffle (Langdon), O’Hara’s assistant, informs his boss that his secretary just quit. O’Hara tells him to hire another. He hires the scatterbrained Polly Kane (Irene Ryan). No sooner does she start work than she hears that a girl singer in a quartette singing radio jingles falls sick and she convinces Whiffle to let her take the sick girl’s place in the quartette.

O’Hara hears Mary’s demo and likes what he hears, though he doesn’t know who the singer is. Later, to his horror he discovers that the boys in the pressing room thought the demo was a regular Tommy Taylor disc and pressed and distributed 10,000 copies of the record. This leaves O’Hara open to legal action from Strohbach and Taylor. 

While Jimmy, Sammy and Mary wait for O’Hara to tell them about his reaction, the boss and Polly are busy going all over the city, buying every copy they can find and smashing it. Their strange behavior is noticed by the police, who arrest them, leaving them to be bailed out by Jimmy and his friends.

O’Hara is determined to find the girl who sang on the Tommy Taylor record. When he mentions this new girl singer to Polly, she thinks he is talking about the jingle she recorded and tells O’Hara it was her. His reaction is to offer her a contract so she can make more records. Meanwhile, Mary discovers Jimmy is not really a songwriter and breaks up with him because he deceived her. When Strohbach and Taylor hear Mary’s demo, Taylor decides to hire her, but Strohbach, by mistake, has already offered a deal to Polly.

In the meantime, Mary returns to her old job singing at a cafe. When Jimmy and Sammy go to see her and straighten everything out, the resulting chaos gets Mary fired. The next day, Mary tells Jimmy that he should confess everything to O'Hara but he refuses, for Strohbach is suing O'Hara for $250,000 for distributing the illegal record.

Polly tells O'Hara that she is quitting in order to sing with Taylor's band, which leads him to believe she is the girl on Mary's demo. As she has not yet formally signed with Strohbach, he signs her up and tells Jimmy and Sammy to make a recording of Polly with a house band, where they have her perform one of their songs. 

O'Hara is shocked when he hears that Polly's voice is nothing like Mary’s, O’Hara is taken aback and realizes he’s signed the wrong person. He then convinces Polly to sign with Strohbach. However, after Polly signs with Strohbach, her record is suddenly in demand, causing O'Hara and Sammy to go on another record smashing spree, which again lands them in jail. 

After Jimmy and Mary bail them out, Jimmy and Sammy finally confess all to O’Hara, who fires them. Sammy then takes Mary to see Taylor and proves that she’s the singer he's been seeking. The meeting is interrupted by a phone call from Strohbach, who triumphantly says that he has "the girl" under contract. 

At the nightclub where Taylor is appearing, Mary and Polly are both scheduled to perform and all the interested parties are in the audience. When Taylor introduces his new singer, both Mary and Polly take bows, but Taylor escorts Mary to the microphone. Realizing he signed the wrong singer, Strohbach passes out. Mary, who by this time has made up with Jimmy, is a hit, and O'Hara tells Jimmy and Sammy that he will double their salaries. 

When Strohbach regains consciousness, O'Hara offers to take Polly off his hands if he will drop his lawsuit. Strohbach readily agrees, but after he hands the contract over, O'Hara shows him a newspaper clipping about Polly's hit record, which causes Strohbach to pass out again.


After years of watching Irene Ryan as Granny in The Beverly Hillbillies, I always find it a little strange to see her in other parts. I remember as a teenager seeing her as Edgar Kennedy’s wife in one of his RKO shorts and I was simply dazzled, not only seeing her as someone other than Granny, but seeing her as a young woman. Already accomplished in vaudeville (where she met and married fellow performer Tim Ryan in 1922) and on radio, Irene’s film carer, which began in 1935, consisted mainly of shorts for Educational Films (later Columbia and RKO) and uncredited parts in feature films. In 1943, she and Tim went to Monogram, were they appeared in Sarong Girl, starring Ann Corio. Tim caught on at Monogram, both onscreen and off, as a scriptwriter. He often wrote parts for Irene, even after they divorced in October 1943. They were simply billed by Monogram as “Tim and Irene” on movie posters. 

As O’Hara, the harried and perplexed boss, Tim Ryan puts in a nice performance. His scenes with Irene display the precise timing they learned during years in vaudeville. In addition, he and Charles Marion wrote a funny script for the film.

The presence of Harry Langdon as Mr. Whiffle is the reason for most film buffs to tune in. Langdon brings his silent movie comedic touches to the film, and the sad part is that he disappears about halfway through the film. He has a great scene when he stands in for a medicine tonic ad. At first, the tonic won’t fizz, and then it fizzes too much. Employing his great comic timing, Langdon reacts to the situation in hilarious fashion, even at one point attempting to trying to put the fizzy glass in his suit pocket. His scenes with Irene Ryan also stand out as they use their comic skills to good effect. Unfortunately, a few months after this film was released, Langdon passed away at the relatively young age of 60 from a cerebral hemorrhage.

Lowery makes for a so-so leading man, hindered by a lack of chemistry with female lead Dona Drake, whose singing far exceeds her acting. Sidney Miller is probably best known among film buffs for his many appearances in Warner Bros. Pre-Code pictures and later, Mickey Rooney films. He met Rooney on the set of Boys Town (1938) where, unlike many of Rooney’s co-workers, he got along well with the star and befriended him, later writing the lyrics to Rooney’s musical compositions. After World War II, he shifted careers from acting to writing, working for Donald O’Connor. In 1953, he joined Walt Disney, where he was wrote, directed, and composed music for many of Disney’s television ventures – in particular, The Mickey Mouse Club, where Disney tasked him with a total revamp of the show after its first season. (Disney wanted it to appeal more to teenagers than to the very young children at which it was originally aimed.) Miller brought in new writers and choreographers to give the Mousketeers more musical numbers and comedy skits and turn the show into a sort of mini-variety show. Although that was what Disney wanted, it didn't go over with the audience, with the result that the numbers for the show went down. Miller’s arguments with the cast led to his dismissal and he continued his directorial career in television, including My Favorite Martian (1963), The Addams Family (1964), and Get Smart (1965). He is also remembered as the man who directed Lou Costello’s first solo effort after his break with Bud Abbott, the ghastly The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959).

All totaled, Hot Rhythm is a decent time-waster, with good comedy and surprisingly – for Monogram – good music. Director William Beaudine does a good job with the material, keeping the pacing brisk. It’s odd that Beaudine is remembered today – thanks in large part to the Medved brothers in their book, The Golden Turkey Awards – as a bad director. 

Beaudine, who began directing back in 1915, was one of the most respected directors in the silent days, known as a seasoned comedy director and renowned for his ability to work with children. When talkies arrived he was one of Hollywood’s top directors, commanding $2,000 a week in 1931. But he was wiped out by the stock market crash and most of his salary went toward reducing his debt load. In 1935, he went to England, where he directed more than a dozen films. When he returned to the States, he found his absence had hurt him and he was unable to secure work at the major studios. The only places he could work were Poverty Row studios and independent productions. His efficient style made him in demand by low-budget producers needing to save money, and this efficiency translated well when he turned his directorial talent to television. It’s somewhat odd today that Beaudine is derided for his style, being called “One-Shot Beaudine,” when MGM director W.S. “Woody” Van Dyke, is praised for what was essentially the same style, and lauded as “One Shot Woody.” 

Faces in the Crowd: Dona Drake

The life of Dona Drake could well be said to have been something right out of a Fannie Hurst novel. Born Eunice Westmoreland in Miami, Florida, on November 15, 1914, she was the daughter of African-American parents Joseph Andrew and Novella Smith Westmoreland. Being light-skinned was a great help to her career due to American attitudes about race, and she billed herself as a Latino of Mexican heritage. First known as Una Villon, she worked Broadway, nightclubs, and revues. (Keeping in line with her new identity, she even went so far as to learn Spanish.) 

In 1935, she changed her name to Rita Rio to further emphasize her “ethnicity.” She landed a featured role in Eddie Cantor’s Strike Me Pink (1936) in which she did a snake-like dancing performance during the “The Lady Dances” number. The climax was when Cantor threw her high in the air and then catches her with the palm of one hand some distance away. Her performance didn’t lead to any further film work, but it did enable her to form an all-woman band called “Rita Rio and Her Rhythm Girls” (aka “The Girlfriends”)  that toured successfully.

On her own she performed in a few two-reelers and sang on the radio. Her good friend Dorothy Lamour helped her land a contract at Paramount, where the studio changed her name to Dona Drake. The publicity sheet for her written by the studio stated that she was christened Rita Novella, was of Mexican, Irish and French descent and born and raised in Mexico City. Her first film for her new studio was the 1941 Lamour vehicle, Aloma of the South Seas. She also appeared in the Bob Hope comedy Louisiana Purchase (1941) as well as in the Hope/Bing Crosby/Lamour film Road to Morocco (1942), where she played an Arab girl. The failure to break from typecasting led the studio to drop her shortly after loaning her to Monogram for Hot Rhythm

In August 1944, she married Oscar- (and later Emmy-) winning costume designer William Travilla. (Travilla gained fame when he dressed Marilyn Monroe in a tailored potato sack to prove she’d look good in anything.) As a freelancer, she appeared in the 1946 Claudette Colbert/John Wayne film Without Reservations. Other notable films during this period were Another Part of the Forest(1948) as Dan Duryea’s girlfriend, Beyond the Forest (1949) as Bette Davis’s Indian maid, and The Girl From Jones Beach (1949) as Eddie Bracken’s paramour. She also starred as the gold digging second female lead in the 1948 Stanley Kramer production So This is New York.

The birth of daughter Nia slowed her down a bit, but she returned to work television before retiring from a variety of health ailments, including heart trouble and epilepsy. In 1989, she succumbed to respiratory failure brought on by pneumonia. Husband Travilla followed her to the grave the following year.