Monday, December 19, 2005

One more thing

I've created a "virtual cemetery" at Find A Grave of all my famous character actors; you can pay your respects here.

In the Christmas Mood

The title has nothing really to do with the movie I watched today, The Glenn Miller Story. It's just that now I'm mini-obsessed with Miller, and I'm listening to In the Christmas Mood, Vol. 1 while I type this. And I've added a book about him to my Amazon wish list, which I'll delete in a week when my interest wanes back to normal levels (I've loved Miller's brand of big band music for awhile now).

So, the movie. I liked it. I love Jimmy Stewart in pretty much everything I've ever seen him do, even the cheese (read: Airport '77). Bonus points for appearances by George Tobias and Harry "Col. Potter" Morgan. I didn't recognize him until I heard him talk. Coincidentally, I had seen another minor player, Sig Ruman, in another film this weekend, To Be or Not To Be, which we'll get to in a minute. Now, back to Glenn...

I don't know anything about Glenn Miller's life, so I can't say how much is fictionalized or prettied up, but I still enjoyed the film. I read on IMDB that he never actually saw his adopted daughter; she was adopted while he was overseas, and he died only days afterwards, never having seen her. In the film, she's adopted as an infant while he's still in the States, and is about 2-3 when he leaves on his band tour; there's a sweet little scene where he sees her for the first time and gives her a bottle. The music, of course, was a delight -- I enjoyed the way they portrayed him composing his best known pieces (especially "Moonlight Serenade"); although I realize that may not be how it happened at all, the music wove its way into the movie very nicely.

As I mentioned, I also watched To Be Or Not To Be this weekend. Carole Lombard and Jack Benny: now that's an interesting combination. The movie is ostensibly about a group of Polish actors rebelling against the Germans, but of course the cast couldn't be more American. Robert Stack as a character named Stanislav Sobinski? Yeah, don't expect to be dazzled by that performance. I mean, he was good; everyone was. Carole was a delight, as always, and Benny was a big ham, again as always. The plot reminded me a bit of the Joan Crawford movie Reunion in France, which is even more ridiculous, plot-wise. Having glamorous Hollywood starlets, dressed to the nines, playing Europeans oppressed by the Nazis just never flies, at least not in any of the movies I've seen. Now, let one of them strip off the make-up and dress down like Norma Shearer did at the end of Marie Antoinette, and I'll be more inclined to suspend my disbelief. But you don't look terribly downtrodden when your lashes are three inches long. I'm just saying.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

As you can see...

...I have been shamefully lax about updating this blog. Part of the reason is that I took a vacation from classic movies to watch most of the first season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which was recently released on DVD. I also plowed my way through all six seasons of Sex and the City, which I became addicted to instantly once I started watching. I also rented a few SNL "Best of" discs, namely John Belushi, Gilda Radner, and Dan Aykroyd ("You're spending the night with Fred Garvin, male prostitute!"). I will also admit, with much shame, that I rented Batman & Robin. Okay, don't judge me! I was curious to see the crazy villains. I didn't know the whole movie was going to be a big ball of cheese!

There have been a few classic movies scattered in there, though. (I had to stop taping them from Comcast for awhile as I was gathering more than I could possibly watch, and using up all the space on my dad's DVR.) As I mentioned at the end of my last post, I did rent Airport '77, if only to see how aging Hollywood legends would survive trapped in a plane at the bottom of the ocean in the Bermuda Triangle. Dun dun dun! I'm happy to report that Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotton and Jimmy Stewart all survived (well, especially Jimmy, since he wasn't even on the plane). Sadly, Christopher Lee did not make it, but he sacrificed his life for the greater good.

Back in October I watched Kim, mostly because it had Errol Flynn in it. Not as much Flynn as I was expecting, though, and I've never been a huge fan of curly-headed moppets, although Dean Stockwell did a fine job.

After that came Sin Takes a Holiday, which lasted only about five minutes, as it was a very poor transfer to DVD. I'm beginning to realize a lot of these old, old movies are in the public domain, which allows any rinky-dink production company (Macady, I'm looking in your direction) to slap them onto to a DVD. Which is a shame, because I think there should be some kind of studio control over how their movies are released. Then again, they probably wouldn't put the effort into restoring and/or releasing copies of every old movie they find in the vaults, so maybe it's a draw.

January 21, 2006 will be my third anniversary with Netflix. In honor of that, I'd mention every movie I've rented, but the list is so long it would bore you to tears. One early rental I will mention is The Cat's Meow, about the mysterious death of Thomas Ince on William Randolph Hearst's yacht in 1924. Because if there's anything that fascinates me more than classic films, it's modern movies about classic film stars.