Archive for March, 2012

Mystery Collection Disc 30

Posted in Movies and TV on March 16th, 2012

The Bridge of Sighs, 1936, b&w. Phil Rosen (dir.), Onslow Stevens, Dorothy Tree, Jack La Rue, Mary Doran, Walter Byron, Oscar Apdel, John Kelly, Paul Fix. 1:06.

We open on an astonishing trial scene, set high in a courtroom building—a courtroom that apparently emulates Venice, being connected by a bridge to the jail—thus, the Bridge of Sighs. “Commit perjury and it takes 10 seconds to walk over…and 10 years to walk back!” This as the prosecutor hectors the poor young woman mercilessly…except that it’s all an act, as she’s his girlfriend (who keeps rejecting his marriage proposal).

They go off to dinner. She sees someone she recognizes, but who has no time for her. The other man starts to sit down with three others (two men and a woman)—but they’re about to leave, and he goes with them. The next thing we know, there’s a shot, one of the group that just left is dead, the man she’d attempted to talk to runs away—and is captured by a cop responding to the gunfire.

With four eyewitnesses offering the same story, it’s a fairly cut-and-dried murder case—during which the prosecutor (the boyfriend) conceals evidence from the defense, which I guess was considered fair practice in 1936. The jury brings back a guilty plea and the man’s sentenced to death, albeit at the expense of the woman among the foursome going to jail as an accessory (she hid the gun, claiming it was thrust at her).

The first woman’s convinced he’s innocent and sets about proving it—by getting herself convicted on phony check-kiting charges and being sent to the same women’s prison, where she gets the second woman as a roommate. They wind up escaping thanks to the actual killer. Add lots of suspense, an “electric ear” used to bug a hideout, a three-way car chase and a just-in-time happy ending. Lots of action, pretty good dialogue, and a fairly satisfactory early procedural/mystery. Some implausible points—such as a prosecuting attorney immediately taking over a crime scene because he happens to be nearby, and the road from sentencing to actual execution being no more than a couple of months—but never mind. Unfortunately, the sound and picture are both wavery at times, reducing the score to $1.25.

Circumstantial Evidence, 1935, b&w. Charles Lamont (dir.), Chick Chandler, Shirley Grey, Arthur Vinton, Claude King, Dorothy Revier, Lee Moran, Carl Stockdale. 1:07.

A newspaper reporter covering a murder trial along with his girlfriend, the newspaper’s sketch artist, is outraged because the defendant can be put to death based solely on circumstantial evidence. So, after proposing to the woman (which she accepts, then tells him that the newspaper’s gossip columnist had proposed the night before and been turned down), he decides to prove his point…by staging a mock murder with lots of circumstantial evidence pointing to him, getting arrested, tried and convicted, then showing how absurd the situation is.

Right off the bat, that’s more than a little hard to take. A whole lot harder: He chooses the rejected suitor—who is an “old friend” but also has some fairly odd tastes—as the “victim.” Sure, because the other guy couldn’t possibly double-cross him or anything… At this point, I’m convinced that the reporter needs a long vacation and some therapy. But he does his thing, with various staged stuff culminating in the “friend” setting an old skeleton he has lying around into the room of his newly-purchased country home and covering it with lots of furniture. At this point, the agreement is that the friend will add kerosene-soaked rags and burn the place down, then go off to San Francisco under an assumed name until recalled to show up the situation. Except, except: The friend has a passport under another name and a ticket on a cruise ship to France. Except, except: As he starts the fire (and shoots the reporter’s gun into the skeleton to improve the frame), somebody shoots him. Dead.

The rest of the movie runs on from there. We have an over-the-top DA denouncing a signed document admitting the situation as being a probable forgery since the handwriting expert was paid by the defense. We have various shenanigans and, of course, a sort-of happy ending. And I found the whole thing so implausible that it was hard to take seriously as a mystery. There’s also an issue with the sound: For about 15 minutes in the second half of the film, it’s as though it was being recorded from an LP with a bad scratch and loads of surface noise. Still, the acting’s amusing; if you don’t mind the implausibility, this one might be worth $1.

Convicted, 1931, b&w. Christy Cabanne (dir.), Aileen Pringle, Jameson Thomas, Dorothy Christy, Richard Tucker, Harry Myers, Nike Welch. 1:03 [0:57]

There’s something special about mysteries that involve transport—all those great train-based mysteries, some airplane-based mysteries, and a few cruise ship mysteries. Like this one—except that the mystery only seems to occupy about half of an already-short movie and then moves too fast and erratically to be satisfying.

As far as I can figure out, we have a slick type in First Class on a cruise ship (the kind where everybody’s formally dressed all day and all night, which I suppose could have been true in 1931) who makes a point of greeting a young woman who wants nothing to do with him. He’s then approached by another young woman who he wants nothing to do with—but who clearly has some unfinished business with him. We also meet an investigative reporter, a drunk and his cabin mate and a few others. As things progress, the reporter encounters the man refusing to let the first woman go and Has Stern Words. There’s dancing. The man, the drunk and cabin-mate, some other random passenger and a ship’s officer wind up playing poker (the first man losing badly to one person and refusing to pay his losses to another, who he knows was at one point convicted as a cardsharp)—and a couple of hours later, the man’s dead: Hit over the head with a blunt instrument but killed by stabbing.

Somehow, the investigative reporter winds up heading up the case and interviewing all those who might have been involved. Suspicion falls on the first young woman—and she later admits to coshing him over the head (but that wasn’t what killed him). The captain finds out that the ship had been wired (a wire that never reached its destination) that the man had embezzled $100,000 from his company and was to be arrested—and, oh look, there’s some money in the young woman’s closet. Oh, by the way, there’s another murder, one the woman could not plausibly have been involved in. In any case, the way it plays out means nobody could plausibly have guessed what’s going on. And after the mystery’s solved, there’s another five or ten minutes as the ship docks and we learn that the reporter and the young woman are, he believes, engaged.

All bizarrely staged: They keep reminding us that it’s a cruise by having wholly irrelevant scenes on the bridge, about positioning via sextant and calling out headings. There’s very little background to understand why or how either woman is or would be involved with the man; in fact, no motivation appears for any character in the movie. Additionally, there’s so much background noise on the print that the sound is unpleasant through much of the movie. The movie’s title doesn’t seem to have anything to do with anything. Maybe the missing six minutes explain everything—but as it is, there’s so much idle footage in this flick, that’s a little hard to believe. (Looking at the IMDB reviews, I rather like the one that assumes this is actually a documentary on cruise ship life, interrupted annoyingly with a silly murder plot. I might be more charitably inclined if that was true.) All in all, and most of the rating only for the early shipboard scenes, I can’t go above $0.75.

The Devil Diamond, 1937, b&w. Lesslie Goodwins (dir.), Frankie Darro, Kane Richmond, June Gale, Rosita Butler, Robert Fiske. 1:01 [1:00]

I’m not sure whether I could take another Frankie Darro, All-American Kid, but in any case this movie—about a cursed diamond that a bunch of jewelers want a retired cutter to split into smaller, presumably uncursed stones, and one or two groups planning to steal the jewels—had so many missing syllables and words that I gave up partway through: The quality of the print made it tiresome to try to follow the dialog. I wonder about the IMDB timing—I’d say there was at least a minute’s worth of missing footage during the 15 minutes I watched. Unrated.

The rare truly clever review

Posted in Movies and TV on March 15th, 2012

Background

When I watch old movies from the Mill Creek Entertainment megapacks–what used to appear in Cites & Insights as Offtopic Perspectives (and will continue to appear there, but with a Media label)–I deliberately write my own informal comments (a mini-review, if you will) before looking at any other comments on the film. Then I go to IMDB to check credits and original running length–and usually read some of the reviews of the movie (all of them unless there are more than 20 or so).

IMDB reviews include lots of ax-grinders and lots of purists–people who detest any John Wayne movie that’s not a Western or any Hitchcock movie that’s not a thriller, for example–and lots of people who appear to love any movie that involves light and movement, especially the cheaply-made ones with lousy acting and poor writing. (Purists also include those who treat any “noir” movie as pure magic and lump nearly all old black-and-white B-grade mysteries as noir.)

But sometimes…

Middle Ground

So yesterday I watched Convicted. The title makes no sense at all (especially following, as it does, two movies on the disc both about murder convictions and last-minute salvation), and that’s only the start of stuff that doesn’t make much sense in this movie that manages to combine short running length with what feels like enormous amounts of padding.

I went into this one predisposed to like it, because it’s set on a cruise ship (in 1931), and transportation mysteries–those set on trains, planes or ships–are usually fun and frequently interesting. This flick may have actually been filmed on a cruise ship, and certainly has lots and lots and lots of footage establishing cruise-ship aspects (including a number of short scenes on the ship’s bridge that do nothing whatsoever to forward the plot). Unfortunately, the mystery (other than the never-explained issues of why Mr. X and Ms. Y and Ms. Z and others feel the way about each other that they appear to–what the backstories are) doesn’t take up much of the picture and is wildly slapdash. Even after it’s “solved,” there’s another seven minutes of the ship coming into dock and a wholly absurd romantic plot point–this out of a flick that runs an hour or so.

Unusually, this movie had few (if any) defenders on IMDB. The overall average is 3.8 out of 10, and I think a reel of blank film would get at least a 3. But…

Foreground

“robinakaaly” from the United Kingdom was remarkably creative in his/her August 23, 2011 review. It begins:

This was an interesting documentary about life on an ocean liner in passage from New York to Los Angeles. There was footage of the scary looking passenger gangplanks, freight being loaded, and the side of the ship as she left harbour, with passengers on the ship and crowds on the quayside waving at each other. We see the funnel belching out smoke as if there were no Clean Air Acts (there weren’t then, of course).

and deals with the so-called mystery at the end:

We also get to meet several fictional passengers from the world of entertainment, and a criminal journalist. These characters, their lives, loves, criminal activities and gambling tended to get in the way of the examination of shipboard life.

I can’t link directly to this review; the set of reviews is here.

What I can say is this: Well played, robinakaaly, well played!

Who or what writes this stuff?

Posted in Writing and blogging on March 12th, 2012

I stopped doing “great spam I have known” posts–with rare exceptions–partly because you really can’t cut-and-paste from the list of spam comments presented by Spam Karma, partly because there are so damn many of them…

But a few, those that are apparently slightly less spammy than others, show up in a daily email summary (and a few–two yesterday!–actually get through until I see and flag them). Many of these have slightly deficient grammar and substantially deficient sense. Some are almost classic, such as this one:

I liked up to you’ll obtain performed proper here. The sketch is attractive, your authored material stylish. nevertheless, you command get got an shakiness over that you would like be handing over the following. sick no doubt come more before again since precisely the similar nearly very regularly within case you defend this hike.

Well, I’m happy that the sketch is attractive; too bad it’s invisible. But thaty may have to do with my not being sufficiently well-preferred, according to this comment:

Thanks , I have just been searching for information about this topic for a while and yours is the best I’ve came upon till now. However, what about the bottom line? Are you positive about the source?|What i do not realize is actually how you are not actually much more well-preferred than you may be right now. You’re very intelligent.

Unfortunately, some compliments aren’t even worth the electrons that carry them…

Public library closings/openings: A quick update

Posted in Cites & Insights, Libraries on March 11th, 2012

Several previous posts, and a lot more comments than this blog usually gets, relate to what I thought was a simple question back in November 2011:

How many U.S. public libraries (not branches) have closed in recent years and stayed closed for, say, two or three years?

That probably isn’t the original wording, but it’s my intent–and the question arises because there have been so many posts and articles that seem to take as an article of faith that U.S. public libraries are shutting down all over the place.

Thanks to various commenters, a change in IMLS policy as of 2008, and the wonders of web searching, I now think I’m getting a pretty good sense of the answer.

I’m not going to give that answer here. It will show up either in Cites & Insights (most likely) or, if I find a $$market$$ for an article, in some “real” publication. Suffice it to say that, at least for the two-year period I’ve investigated to date–the only period that’s really open to clear investigation–it’s not 1%, it’s not even 0.5%, but it’s >0. Although in terms of potential patrons directly affected…well, that’s part of the larger story.

Anyway, this quick update is to note:

  • Thanks to others, and to figuring out how to get Excel to open and work with humongous Access databases, I now believe I have official lists of libraries (again, not branches) that were regarded as permanently closed in 2008 and 2009.
  • I’ve done my own web investigation in the current state (or non-state) of those libraries. I haven’t, and won’t, follow up with possible phone calls or emails for those libraries I can’t locate as having returned to active status through web methodologies…
  • I’m starting to write all of this up, including comments & investigation of other stories of closed public libraries. I’ll also explain why I’m focused on libraries rather than branches, why I think it’s important to have some clarity and facts in this area, and more…

And that’s it for now.

The nuts and bolts of DIY journals: A shameless repost

Posted in Books and publishing on March 9th, 2012

I don’t often (ever?) repost an entire post from Somebody Else’s Blog, but I’m going to make an exception for “The nuts and bolts of DIY journals” at Gavia Libraria–a blog, written by the Library Loon, that you should be reading in any case.

Herewith, in its CC BY-licensed entirety:

There’s considerably less excuse for the ignorance of what it takes to run a small open-access journal (once, twice, thrice called out here) than was the case even a few days ago. The Loon considers this a mid-sized miracle.

First, consider this exposition by Stuart Shieber on a journal he’s helped run for years. His points about in-kind support are well-taken, and should be carefully considered by libraries pondering what kinds of in-kind support are most helpful. He also notes with sage honesty that computer science and its allied fields have a built-in advantage owing to their use of authoring tools that produce camera-ready copy.

Next, consider the cost argument again, carefully. The Loon can’t think of a single useful word to add to this.

Last, swim right over to your book-purveyor of choice to procure The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing. Journal editors, don’t let the title put you off; this is exactly the book you need if you’re serious about your do-it-yourself journal. It will bootstrap your entire production process, and give you just enough savvy to negotiate through the print-on-demand jungle if you’re inclined that way. This is quite a brilliant book, remarkably accessible considering its information density. The Loon doesn’t think anyone but Walt Crawford could have written it.

What Crawford and Shieber share that is often lacking in the quacking we’re currently seeing from the public-relations units and sockpuppets of the big-pig publishers is experience, plain and simple. (Well, and honesty, but more on that in a moment.) Both these gentlemen have been small-scale publishing for some years. Neither disdained publishing-production chores. They have, in other words, been there and done that.

The Loon will eat her own tailfeathers if even a quarter of the big-pigs’ PR flacks have ever touched page-layout software, much less (oh, dear, now the Loon really will date herself) a VariTyper or suchlike.

But then, it isn’t their job to discuss their experience with publishing production; it’s not their job to have any. It isn’t even their job to tell the truth, and often they do not (as the various Fakes on Twitter are gleefully celebrating). It’s their job to say whatever they think will advance their employers’ interests. Funny, how often truth does not do that.

The Loon thanks Crawford and Shieber for sharing their truths.

[Loon, Library, “The nuts and bolts of DIY journals,” posted March 9, 2012 at Gavia Libraria.]

I could shuffle my feet and say “Aw, shucks,” but I won’t. I’m damn proud of this book. And I did work really hard on the chapter that’s most relevant to academic libraries and journal publishers.

Oh, and if you’re not already (I have been since it began), you should be reading Stuart Shieber’s The Occasional Pamphlet as well. It’s one of those blogs that thoroughly puts the lie to nonsense about blogs inherently degrading serious communication.

The I am / you are meme

Posted in Language on March 8th, 2012

Well, traditionally, it’s the I am / you are / they are meme. You know: identifying the same characteristic in three different ways–highly favorable for “I am,” neutral for “you are,” unfavorable for “they are.”

I’m seeing more of it but I’ll simplify to I am / you are:

I am precise. You are pedantic.

I am adding a different perspective. You are being disagreeable.

That’s enough for now.

Cites & Insights 12:2 (March 2012) Available

Posted in Cites & Insights on March 6th, 2012

Cites & Insights 12:2 (March 2012) has just been published.

The 30-page two-column PDF (designed for printing) represents the new, refreshed Cites & Insights, following the two reader surveys. Contents, available as HTML separates using the links below, include:

The Front  (pp. 1-6)

The reinvention or refreshing of Cites & Insights, including results of the two polls, new section names, tweaks to layout and typography, and a discussion of the online PDF alternative, a single-column version (in this case 53 pages) designed for those who read C&I on various sorts of screens–iPads, netbooks, notebooks, Kindles, Nooks and others.

Social Networks (pp. 6-16)

The Social Network Scene, Part 1: Catching up with social network miscellany

The Middle (pp. 16-26)

A range of items that might formerly have appeared in Trends & Quick Takes: the non-death of desktop software; “smarter, dumber or both”; closing the digital frontier (or not); and lots more.

The Back (pp. 26-30)

 Notes from the 1%, stereo prices and other snark.

A note on versions

While the two-column print-oriented Cites & Insights is the version of record, with the most careful layout and typography, I’m adding a third option (in addition to the individual HTML essays): an “online PDF” version, single column, set on a 6″ x 9″ page (28 picas of text, compared to the 20 picas in each of the two standard columns), designed for those who want the PDF but are reading it online or on an e-device.

The online PDF version of Volume 12, Issue 2 is 53 pages. Please don’t download it to print out. It’s somewhat cruder typographically (there will be bad breaks, for example), but it should work very well on your e-device.

Just My Type: A mini-review

Posted in Books and publishing on March 5th, 2012

This book–Just My Type by Simon Garfield–had been recommended to me by a hiking acquaintance and at least one other person. So, for the first time, I actually placed a hold at my public library, and a couple weeks later, received the email and picked up the book. Which I finished reading yesterday…

Briefly: It’s fun, interesting, well-written, and if you care about typefaces you’ll probably enjoy it.

Now the caveats…

  • Garfield’s thoroughly indoctrinated in the “creative community” tradition that Microsoft is Evil. Thus, for example, even though he admits–and even demonstrates–that Arial is not in fact a clone of Helvetica, he still treats it as simple fact that Microsoft was wrong in adopting Arial rather than paying the license fee for Helvetica. (There are other examples–even when Garfield admits that Microsoft’s commissioned some of the most legible on-screen typefaces, it’s grudging.)
  • Garfield loves loves loves sans in general and exciting typefaces like Helvet…zzz…sorry, snoozed off there for a bit–in particular (also Univers and Futura). The book is, to be sure, actually set in Sabon, which is (ahem) a serif typeface.
  • The book admirably uses named typefaces within text when it names typefaces–but it’s not uncommon for the different-typeface insertion to be out of step with the surrounding type, usually somewhat higher (the baselines are higher than the surrounding text). I’m not sure whether that’s a weakness of the layout software used for the book or whether some of those insertions are actually graphics rather than digital type, and pasted in badly. It’s surprising, in any case.
  • The subtitle of the book is “a book about fonts” but it’s primarily a book about typefaces. He knows the difference but basically decides that it doesn’t matter. (For the record: Sabon is a typeface; Sabon 11 pt. Lt Std is a font.)
  • With very few exceptions, Garfield shows the typefaces he’s discussing. He chickens out (or the publisher wouldn’t pay the $24.75) in one case, unfortunately: Old Dreadful No. 7, the most distinctive typeface on the Bitstream 500 Typeface CD that came with Ventura Publisher back in the day. Here’s a sample of Old Dreadful No. 7 (thanks to a screencapture from this page at FontShop):

Those are mostly nits (well, that and that the American edition still has British punctuation around quotes). It’s an enjoyable book.

Results of second C&I survey

Posted in Cites & Insights on March 5th, 2012

I’ve closed the second C&I survey, aimed at those who read Cites & Insights in PDF form but online (or on an e-device) rather than in print. (The first link here is to the post about the survey, not to the survey itself, since that’s closed.)

According to Urchin stats, 98 people viewed the post (or at least it was viewed 98 times). The first attempt at an online-oriented PDF was downloaded 17 times and viewed 23 times (which, as far as I can interpret Urchin’s handling of PDF stats, means it was used 17 times).

Five people responded to the survey.

The Results

The first question was “How do you feel about the Online PDF as compared to the regular C&I PDF?”

  • Comparative readability online or on your preferred device: One response was “less readable,” one was “about the same,” two were “more readable” and one was “much more readable.” I take that as a mild endorsement for the single-column 6×9 version, and would suggest that one respondent stick with the canonical C&I (assuming I do an online-oriented variant).
  • Likelihood that you’d read issues; Likelihood that you’d read all of an issue; Likelihood that you’d publicize the issue to others: I’m clustering all three together because the results were identical: Four said “about the same” and one said “more.” I’ll admit that I was hoping for slightly better responses, especially for the last one–as awareness of C&I outside of the core readership (somewhere between 8 and 800 people?) depends on people publicizing issues and essays.

The second question was “Would you pay for (or contribute toward) the Online PDF version?” Given that this was an anonymous survey and that nobody was actually making a commitment, the results are especially interesting in terms of the value people place on C&I:

  • Four people said “Possibly: No more than $1/issue or $10-$12/year.”
  • One person said “Possibly: Up to $2.50/issue or $25/year.”
  • Nobody said “No.” Nobody said “Possibly: More than $25/year.”

I conclude that providing an online version might yield contributions totaling as much as $73/year, total, if I was really lucky. Last year, total contributions were just over $100; so far, there have been no contributions in 2012.

The third question was “Do you think it’s worthwhile to generate this version (in addition to the existing PDF, not in place of it)?”

  • Not at all: One person
  • Yes, if it takes less than 30 minutes per issue to create: Four people.
  • Yes, if it takes up to an hour per issue to create and Yes, no matter how much time it takes: Nobody.

Finally, I asked an essay question: “What changes would make an Online PDF version more desirable?” I received three responses. Here they are, in full:

I like it fine. However, I’m used to the other PDF version which appears smaller on my computer screen. I also like the two column layout. However, I could get used to the new version very easily.

What you’ve done with this is great. The biggest issue I have with the current online PDF version is the columns and the constant scrolling.

I would really prefer to have the TOC back. That is pretty much the first thing I look at once I have downloaded an issue.

Conclusions and next steps

Last things first: If I do an online version, it will include “Inside this Issue”–changing the page numbers only takes about 2 minutes–but it will not include any attempts at copyfitting (cleaning up bad breaks, etc., which probably takes me 4-6 hours for a typical issue), so it will be typographically crude compared to the canonical version. It will be single-column, 28 picas wide, which is still within the range considered to be a readable line width. (Each column of the two-column version is 20 picas wide; many/most trade paperbacks have 26 pica body text width.) A 28-pica width should fit very nicely on iPads, netbooks and other e-devices with at least 9″ screens, and shouldn’t be too bad on 6″-7″ devices.

And I suppose I should change the wording on the C&I invitation to contribute to suggest as little as $10/year. Using Paypal, $1/issue contributions seem almost pointless.

Based on responses to the first survey, it might make sense to do the online PDF and scrap the HTML essays. In any case, the “real” C&I will continue to be the two-column, carefully copyfitted, print-oriented PDF. Beyond that–well, we’ll see, probably later this week.

Oh, and thanks to the five people who responded and, for that matter, to the dozen who apparently checked out the online-oriented version but felt no need to respond.

50 Movie Comedy Kings Disc 8

Posted in Movies and TV on March 3rd, 2012

The Milky Way, 1936, b&w. Leo McCarey (dir.), Harold Lloyd, Adolphe Menjou, Verree Teasdale, Helen Mack, William Gargan, George Barbier, Dorothy Wilson, Lionel Stander, Charles Lane, Marjorie Gateson. 1:29 [1:27]

Burleigh Sullivan (Harold Lloyd) is a milkman with glasses, a timid sort who gets practical jokes played on him during dairy meetings and isn’t much liked by his boss, the dairy owner. His sister is a hatcheck girl. When he comes to pick her up at the club, she’s being harassed by two sizable and drunk buffoons, one of them far more buffoonish than the other. He comes to her defense and, in the ensuing melee, seems to have knocked out one of the buffoons—who turns out to be the middleweight boxing champion.

That’s the setup. From there, it’s a fast-moving joyride with Adolphe Menjou doing a great job as a boxing manager/promoter with the ethics you’d expect, just enough physical comedy, some great ways to duck-and-dance, love interest, the meek becoming the arrogant—and redeeming himself, and lots more. I found it thoroughly entertaining in an ageless way, well played by everyone concerned, well written and just flat-out funny to boot. A key plot point involves a thuggish boxing assistant who’s literacy is minimal at best and the fact that “some ammonia” and “insomnia” have some similarities. Pretty good print, but it seems to be missing a minute or two (though there’s no obvious gap). Supposedly, this movie almost disappeared because Samuel Goldwyn purchased both the rights (for a Danny Kaye remake) and the negative, and destroyed that—but Lloyd had retained a quality print. I’ll give it $1.75.

Money Means Nothing, 1934, b&w. Christy Cabanne (dir.), Wallace Ford, Gloria Shea, Edgar Kennedy, Vivien Oakland, Maidel Turner, Betty Blythe, Eddie Tamblyn. 1:10 [1:04]

This is a Depression romantic comedy in the worst way: I found the whole thing pretty depressing, and it being filmed in 1934 was part of that. The plot’s also a little strange, possibly due to a few missing minutes in this print. To wit: A young socialite’s at a sleazy roadhouse with her drunk-to-the-point-of-unconsciousness date. She spots four men conferring at a nearby table and thinks they look interesting/suspicious. A waiter tells her she should mind her own business. But of course, she trails them outside and, stuffing her comatose date in her fancy roadster, follows their car…which is on its way to hijack two trucks full of tires, an effort she aids by stalling her car in a manner that blocks the trucks.

In the ensuing brouhaha, one driver gets shot and the handsome young man who was in the same truck admonishes her. They wind up at her father’s (or sister’s?) mansion, with the driver bleeding all over the expensive sofa, cops, doctors, bemused father, angry sister… Anyway: She (the socialite) essentially stalks the young man (who’s a manager at an auto accessories store), loading the roadster down with a dozen or more horns in the process, until she finally gets him to marry her. (The incongruity: He never seems to show more than the most casual interest in her.) Naturally, her sister sees to it that she’s cut off without a cent—and shortly thereafter, he loses his job (which apparently has something to do with the gossipy, loud woman in an apartment near the one they move to, whose husband is a higher-up at the parts place). He’s looking for work. She’s pawning stuff to keep them going—and at one point, a pawnbroker’s wife informs her that she’s pregnant (based on her near-fainting spell?). Anyway, somehow, the husband winds up being part of a tire hijacking ring but heroically saving the day and getting his old job back. Or something like that.

Occasionally amusing, but mostly not, and really pretty depressing as well as being wildly illogical even by romantic comedy standards. (Full confession: I love good romantic comedies.) At best, I’d give this $0.75.

Never Wave at a WAC, 1953, b&w. Norman Z. McLeod (dir.), Rosalind Russell, Paul Douglas, Marie Wilson, William Ching, Arleen Whelan, Leif Erickson, Hillary Brooke, Charles Dingle, Lurene Tuttle, Regis Toomey, Gen. Omar Bradley (playing himself). 1:27.

This one’s also a romantic comedy, as well as a comedy about growing up and the military—and it’s an absolute charmer. Russell plays a Washington, DC socialite, daughter of a senator and divorced from a fabric manufacturer and researcher (who works with the Pentagon on specialized uniform needs)—and whose boyfriend, a Colonel, is suddenly on his way to Paris to work with NATO.

While she first makes a flight reservation for Paris, a discussion with her father leads to a belief that she can get the government to pay for her flight—by joining the WACs with an assured officer commission and billeting in Paris. So off she drives to Fort Lee, where she’ll deal with the formalities before rejoining her boyfriend. Basic training? Surely she doesn’t have to…

Things don’t go quite as planned—and in the process, we get a movie that’s enjoyable on several levels. There’s some pure physical comedy, a lot of relationship comedy (among women as well as between women and men), a lot of heart and an odd but presumably happy ending. Even though there are a few missing syllables (but apparently less than a minute overall missing) due to print issues, it’s still worth $2.

Nothing Sacred, 1937, color. William A. Wellman (dir.), Carole Lombard, Fredric March, Charles Winninger, Walter Connolly, Sig Ruman. 1:17 [1:14]

The plot’s not all that unusual, but this 1937 romantic comedy is in well-preserved Technicolor and stars Carole Lombard, and it’s a flat-out winner. A newspaper reporter who’s done very well for his New York paper gets taken in by a fake Asian potentate (actually a shoe-shine artiste) and relegated to the world’s worst obituary desk. Pleading his case with the editor, he spots an underplayed story about a young woman in a Vermont town who’s dying of radium poisoning.

He goes off to interview her and to show her New York as a great story and publicity stunt. The interactions with small-town Yup/Nope Vermont, specifically a factory town wholly owned by a watch company, and the lush doctor who (mistakenly) diagnosed radium poisoning (a mistake that the patient and doctor, ahem, choose not to reveal when the reporter offers the New York trip) starts out a fast-moving, charming tale. Yes, it’s a bit cynical, but it’s also funny and entertaining. Fairly big-budget for its time, well-made, a good print, and easily worth $2.


This blog is protected by dr Dave\\\\\\\'s Spam Karma 2: 104738 Spams eaten and counting...