Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tales from the Archives: The Movie Church Nov. 1928 Part 2

My finals are finished so its time to get back on track. This week we'll take a look at the films that were shown by this parish on November 11th and November 18th 1928.

The feature length film scheduled for November 11th was The Fortune Hunter (1927) starring Syd Chaplin. I've written about Syd Chaplin before as this Church showed several of his films. Syd was the half-brother of the much more famous Charlie Chaplin. Syd Chaplin is on the right of the above picture, which is a still from The Fortune Hunter. However, this appears to be a lost film. Like many of the films shown by this parish, The Fortune Hunter was a Warner Bros. Vitaphone Production. This means that although it was a silent film, The Fortune Hunter featured a musical score and sound effects on discs that were synched up to the movie. There were often problems with synching Vitaphone discs to film, which was spoofed in Singin' in the Rain (1952).

The next film shown was Raggedy Rose (1926) starring Mabel Normand. This film is 56 minutes long so it's either a long short or a short feature. Mabel Normand (pictured above in the aforementioned film) was a popular silent film actress from 1910 to 1927. Normand was one of the first females in the film industry to also be a screenwriter, director, and producer. Mabel Normand was linked to two scandals: the 1922 murder of film director William Desmond Taylor (which is still unsolved!) and the non-fatal shooting of oil tycoon Courtland S. Dines in 1924. Besides these scandals Normand had tuberculosis in 1923 which also contributed to the decline of her career. Raggedy Rose was one of five films Normand made in 1926 and 1927 as part of her comeback attempt. Sadly Normand's health never fully recovered and she died in 1930 at the age of 37. The character Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard (1950) is named after Mabel Normand and William Desmond Taylor. Raggedy Rose still survives and has been released on DVD. According to IMDB, actor Oliver Hardy was originally part of the cast for this film but had to leave the production after badly injuring and burning himself in a kitchen accident. The films screenplay was co-written by Stan Laurel so its interesting to note the involvement of one half of the Laurel and Hardy comedy duo with Raggedy Rose.
The second short for this week was Fun Afoot (1928) which was a Sport Pictorials production. Between 1921 and 1929 the company made over 200 short documentaries on various sports subjects. Judging from the title I am guessing this one was about soccer or football.

The first feature film shown on November 18th was One-Round Hogan (1927), a movie about boxing. Like The Fortune Hunter, this film was also a Warner Bros. Vitaphone production. The film starred Monte Blue (who I discussed in an earlier Tales from the Archives post) as well as actress Leila Hyams who is pictured above. Hyams was quite popular in the late silent and pre-code era. Her most famous films are The Big House (1930), Island of Lost Souls (1932), and Tod Browning's Freaks (1932). It seems that One-Round Hogan no longer survives.

The second film of the double feature was A Harp in Hock (1927). I could not find out much about this movie so I assume that it no longer exists. The film starred stage and film actor Rudolph Schildkraut who I discussed in an earlier Tales from the Archives post. A Harp in Hock featured actresses Bessie Love and May Robson who would both later receive Oscar nominations. Love acted in films from 1915 until 1983! Robson on the other hand was a stage actress who made the shift from stage acting to film. Robson acted until her death in 1942 at the age of 84. Robson is the third oldest actress  to receive an Oscar nomination for a leading role behind Edith Evans and Jessica Tandy (who won the award).

The short for this week was Happy Days (1926). Happy Days was part of the Winnie Winkle shorts series which was basically an Our Gang knock-off. You can probably see what I mean from the above picture. Luckily this short still survives and was restored, copyrighted, and distributed by Kino International Corporation in 2007.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tales from the Archives: The Movie Church Nov. 1928

Today's Tales from the Archives post will be shorter than usual since I just finished my final exams and didn't have much time to do research. This week we will look at the one feature and two short films shown on November 4th 1928.

The Leopard Lady (1928) appears to be a lost film. The movie was directed by Rupert Julian and starred Jacqueline Logan and Alan Hale, Sr. who is pictured above. I discussed actress Jacqueline Logan in my very first Tales from the Archives post.
Alan Hale, Sr. acted in films from 1911 until his death in 1950 at the age of 57. Hale appeared in classic films of both the silent and talkie eras such as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) and It Happened One Night (1934). Hale's most popular role was that of Little John, which he played in both Robin Hood (1922) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). Of course Hale is best known today for being the father of Alan Hale, Jr. the actor who played the Skipper on Gilligan's Island!
Below is a comparison of father (left) and son (right).

Tired Business Men (1927) was an Our Gang comedy short while Coast to Coast (1928) was an Aesop's Fables cartoon short. As you may recall from my earlier posts, this Church showed many shorts from both of these series. Below is a picture from Tired Business Men.

There won't be a weekly wrap-up this Sunday. Next Thursday will be the next installment of Tales from the Archives.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up (12/4)

I have my final exams coming up this week so I'll keep this post a bit shorter than usual. This week I saw seven movies. One is a true classic, one is a true stinker and the rest are somewhere in between!

The Maltese Falcon
Somehow I had never seen this film before even though I love Casablanca which also has Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet. Like in that film, the supporting cast here is fantastic and just as great as the leading actors. The story is good but it is the characters, dialogue, and acting that make this film great. The Maltese Falcon is important to film history, but it still holds up extremely well. The movie is always entertaining and it is easy to see why this film has made its mark on popular culture. The Maltese Falcon truly is the stuff dreams are made of!

Three Amigos!
Last week I saw The Blues Brothers so here is another John Landis comedy. I actually liked this one a bit better and at the moment it is my favorite Landis comedy. The basic plot of actors being confused for the people they portray has been done before and since. For similar movies I still prefer Galaxy Quest but liked this one more than Tropic Thunder. Although the movie meanders at points (the singing cowboy parody parts for instance, especially since these are silent film actors and that fad happened later) it is consistently funny and there are few movies that have made me laugh as much as this one did.

Coming to America
Since I have liked pretty much every John Landis movie I have seen so far (Into the Night was mediocre and its hard to judge his work on Twilight Zone: The Movie because of the infamous helicopter accident and the fact that its an anthology film) I plan on eventually seeing all his 70s and 80s movies. It seems that Landis came down with John Carpenter syndrome and couldn't make a good film after the 80s ended.
The plot of Coming to America is that Prince Akeem defies his arranged marriage to find a woman who will arouse his intellect as well as his loins, to paraphrase a line from the movie. Akeem and his servant travel to Queens, NY disguised as poor goat herders to find Akeem's true love. While this basic story has been done many times before, Coming to America puts a new spin on the material and does its own thing. Prince Akeem may be Eddie Murphy's finest film role. Like Landis, Murphy also lost it after the 80s ended. Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, and John Amos steal every scene they are in. There are also early roles from Samuel L. Jackson and Louie Anderson. Murphy and Hall play several roles throughout the movie, including the hilarious barbers. Coming to America is quite funny, but it also has heart and makes you care about the characters.

Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (1996)
I just realized that I saw two movies with America in the title this week, I didn't plan on that, I swear!
As a fan of the Beavis and Butthead TV show (and the brand new episodes!) I had been meaning to see this movie for quite some time now. Besides Mike Judge who voices the titular characters (as well as several others), Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Robert Stack, and Cloris Leachman round out the cast. Beavis and Butt-Head Do America is pretty short as it clocks in at 81 minutes and there is some filler.
If you like the show you will enjoy the movie, but Beavis and Butthead still works better in small doses as a TV series. Beavis and Butthead don't get the chance to mock any music videos which make sense for the movie, but was a bit disappointing as it was always a major part of the show. It doesn't matter too much as these two dumb metal heads will always make me laugh.

Pretty in Pink
Although I liked every John Hughes movie I had seen so far, I didn't care for this one. To be fair Pretty in Pink was only written by Hughes and he didn't direct it. However, it is usually considered one of "his" films since he wrote it specifically for Molly Ringwald. I knew this movie probably wouldn't be my cup of tea coming into it, but was surprised that I didn't like any of the characters. Part of this may have been because there was some confusion during production as Robert Downey, Jr. was almost cast as Duckie which would have been pretty different. I won't go into spoilers, but the ending was also changed at the last minute. The plot is your basic poor girl falls in love with rich guy story and doesn't really bring anything new to the table. The movie is competently made and held my interest, but I'd say it is Hughes weakest movie (scripted or directed) that I have seen thus far. Harry Dean Stanton put in a solid performance as Ringwald's jobless single father and I enjoyed James Spader's role as a rich jerk who looks way too old to be in high school.

Identity (2003)
Identity is a creepy atmospheric thriller with some nice acting performances by John Cusack and Ray Liotta. It is hard to discuss this film further without spoilers so I'll just say that I liked the way it progressed even though I wasn't blown away or thought it should not have gone that direction like some people did. I was impressed with the directing by James Mangold who also made Girl, Interrupted, Walk the Line, and 3:10 to Yuma so I'll have to check out some of his other films when I get the chance.

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972)
Bad movies come in all forms and genres. This piece of crap is a terrible Christmas movie and a bad kids movie. Bad children's films often get a pass as people say "but it was only made for kids!" as some sort of excuse for a bad movie that is usually incredibly dumbed down. I have seen some awful Christmas movies before like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and Santa Claus (1959) but this one takes the cake.
This excuse for a movie starts out with Santa's elves then switches to Santa on his sleigh stuck in the sand at the beach. There is no explanation given for what happened to his reindeer or how the sleigh got stuck there. A bunch of children find out about this (I don't know how) and bring different kinds of animals, including a guy in a gorilla suit, to pull the sleigh but nothing works. Somehow Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn observe all that goes on with Santa and the children even though they are fictional characters and the movie takes place in the present day real world. Since the kids can't get the sleigh out of the sand, Santa tells the children a story. This is when the movie suddenly turns into another movie about Thumbelina from the same production company. We even see the opening credits for that movie as Santa begins to "tell" the story! And the worst part is that the Thumbelina movie has its own framing story since its being told at an amusement park called Pirates World.
So to summarize, what essentially happens is that Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn eavesdrop on Santa telling kids a story about some people going to an amusement park who go into a room and hear a story about Thumbelina on a loudspeaker. Yes folks, that is how bad this movie is. The Thumbelina story is just as bad as the Santa story, except much creepier thanks to the animal costumes which are pure nightmare fuel. After the Thumbelina story ends, a bunny driving an old fashioned fire engine comes by and Santa hitches a ride with the bunny as the kids wave goodbye to him. Santa just leaves his sleigh on the beach and despite the title there is never any connection between this bunny and ice cream. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is one of the worst movies ever made and despite my description I don't think I can do justice as to how bad this garbage really is. I can't believe people actually paid money to see this movie in theaters as it is 96 minutes of hell unleashed upon the Earth. Luckily I saw the RiffTrax version from Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy of MST3K fame which hilariously mocked the movie. Check out a sample here if you think you can stand it!
Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny deserves a 0/10, but I do my scoring system on a 1-10 scale to sync up with my votes on IMDB.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Tales from the Archives: The Movie Church Oct. 1928 Part 2

This week's parish monthly calendar is from September 1928 and shows us the films scheduled to be shown in October of that year.

The first film of the October 21st double feature was A Dog of the Regiment (1927). So far this is the third Rin Tin Tin movie shown at the Church. Like many of the other films the parishioners of this Church watched,  A Dog of the Regiment was a Warner Bros Vitaphone production. Sadly it appears that this is a lost film.

The second film of the double feature was The Night Flyer (1928). 
6/1/12 Edit: According to Art Pierce, executive director for the Capitol Theatre in Rome, New York the does indeed exist! A 35mm print of the film will be shown on August 10th 2012 accompanied by live music. More information about the showing can be found here.
The star of this movie was William Boyd, who I've discussed in earlier posts as this Church showed several of his films. His co-star in this movie was Jobyna Ralston, pictured below.

Ralston was a best known for being paired with silent film comedian Harold Lloyd. The duo made several films together, including the classic comedies Girl Shy (1924), The Freshman (1925), and The Kid Brother (1927). Ralston was named a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1923, which was an award given to the best young actresses of the year by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers from 1922 - 1934.  Ralston also had a supporting role in Wings (1927), the first movie to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Ralston married her Wings co-star actor Richard Arlen in 1927. In 1931 Ralston became a mother and decided to quit acting. Ralston did a couple of talkies before she ended her career, one of which was a Rin Tin Tin movie.

The full title of this week's short is Hunting for Germans in Berlin with Will Rogers (1927). Will Rogers was one of the most famous people of the 1920s and 30s. Rogers acted in films, vaudeville, and radio and also wrote a newspaper column. His popularity skyrocketed thanks to his cowboy image and humorous social commentary. Sadly Rogers died in a plane crash at the age of 55 in 1935.

On October 28th one feature was screened with two shorts. The full length film was Ham and Eggs at the Front (1927) starring Myrna Loy in an early role. Loy started her career in the silent film era but become famous in the 1930s. Loy's best known role is that of Nora Charles, one half of a husband and wife crime-solving team alongside actor William Powell, in The Thin Man film series. Loy regretted her role in Ham and Eggs at the Front because she put on blackface to play a black barmaid who was also a German spy. This movie was clearly a product of its time as "Ham" and "Eggs" were also black characters played by white actors. Loy referred to the film as a "tasteless slapstick comedy." We'll probably never know how tasteless it was since this appears to be a lost film.

The first of the two shorts this week was War Feathers (1926), a Hal Roach Our Gang comedy. War Feathers features the Our Gang kids playing Cowboys and Indians. The short still survives today.
The second short was A Jungle Triangle (1928) from the animated Aesop's Fables series. This Church must have really like the Aesop's Fables cartoons as they showed them quite often.