W.S. Van Dyke

Rosalie 1937

Rosalie (1937)

Princess Rosalie of Romanzia (Eleanor Powell) doesn’t care much about her status. While studying at Vassar, she keeps her title a secret and enjoys doing normal college student things like going to football games. She has a big crush on Dick Thorpe (Nelson Eddy), a Cadet at West Point and top football player on their team. When they meet at a party, he falls in love with her too, not having any clue who she really is, and he agrees to meet her again in Romanzia.

He also doesn’t realize that Rosalie’s father, the King (Frank Morgan), has already announced her engagement to Prince Paul (Tom Rutherford). Rosalie doesn’t love Paul and Paul is more interested in Rosalie’s friend Brenda (Ilona Massey). Determined to not miss their date, even if it means getting in trouble at school, he flies all the way to Europe to meet up with her. He’s greeted with a hero’s welcome by the King himself, who invites him to come enjoy the big festival going on. At the festival, who else would he see doing an elaborate dance performance but Rosalie?

At first, Dick is thrilled to be reunited with Rosalie, but it isn’t long before he finds out the truth about who she is and who she’s engaged to. Before she can explain that she doesn’t love Paul at all, he leaves her to fly back to West Point. But Rosalie isn’t about to give up that easily and follows him back.

If Eleanor Powell wasn’t dancing, Rosalie did nothing for me. The story wasn’t anything remarkable; it didn’t hold my interest and it felt like it went on for way too long. And I had to take off even more points for all the scenes of Frank Morgan with that creepy ventriloquist’s dummy. The only things I liked about Rosalie were Eleanor Powell’s dance numbers, which were absolutely dazzling. Her number dancing to the song “Rosalie” is certainly one of the all-time greats. Rosalie was directed by W.S. Van Dyke, famously nicknamed “One Take Van Dyke,” and I would love to know how many takes were involved in the filming of that scene.

What’s on TCM: March 2013

Greer GarsonHappy March, everyone!  Hopefully you’ve all been enjoying 31 Days of Oscars, I know I have.  But we already have just a few days left of that before it’s back to the standard TCM schedule.  Greer Garson will be the Star of the Month for March and her movies can be seen every Monday night this month.  TCM will also be shining the spotlight on director Roberto Rossellini every Friday night in March.  Now, let’s take a look at the rest of the schedule:

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Rose-Marie (1936)

Marie de Flor (Jeanette MacDonald) is one of the most renowned opera singers in the world.  She’s on top of the world, and although she has plenty of wealthy men throwing themselves at her, she doesn’t feel the need to accept any of their advances.  The only man she’s concerned with is her brother John (James Stewart), who is serving a prison sentence.  She’d been hoping he would get out on parole, so when she finds out his request was denied, she decides to wield her influence and hosts a dinner party for the Premier of Quebec.  But on the night of the party, Marie gets a message from Boniface (George Regas), informing her that her brother has escaped and killed a Mounty in the process.

Boniface knows where John is hiding, so he takes Marie out to Lake Shibuga so she can find him.  But once they get to town, Marie stops in the store to buy some clothes and she discovers Boniface has stolen her money.  The shopkeeper tells her to report it to Sergeant Bruce (Nelson Eddy), the new Mounty in town, but she doesn’t want to call attention to herself and decides to try earning some money singing at the local bar instead.  The local drunks just don’t appreciate her operatic style, but she does catch Sergeant Bruce’s attention, who just happened to be in the bar at the time.  He had heard all about her money being stolen, and even though she tries to downplay who she is, he’d recognize her voice anywhere.

Bruce takes Marie to a festival where he knows Boniface will be.  Marie gets her money back and forces Boniface to take her to her brother.  But by the time Bruce figures out that Marie and John must be related, she and Boniface are already on their way so he follows them.  Along the way, Boniface ditches Marie again and Bruce takes care of her.  Alone in the wilderness together, the two of them fall madly in love with each other.  Eventually, Marie makes her way to John, but she doesn’t realize that Bruce had followed her and he arrests John. Marie returns to the stage, absolutely devastated by Bruce’s betrayal.  Soon, the stress of performing becomes too much for her and she takes a vacation in the mountains, where she and Bruce are finally reunited.

Rose-Marie is the Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy movie that I’ve seen and it definitely made me want to see some of the others they did together.  The operetta style isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I don’t mind it and I can see why Eddy and MacDonald were such a successful duo.  It’s lighthearted and predictable, but who cares? It’s entertainment for entertainment’s sake.  As long as that’s what you’re in the mood for, it’s a very enjoyable movie.

The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933)

While at a bar one night, boxing manager Edwin J. Bennett, AKA: Professor, (Walter Huston) sees sailor Steve Morgan (Max Baer) knock out a couple of drunks.  The Professor sees that Steve has the potential to be a great boxer and convinces Steve to let him train him.  While the two of them are jogging on a country road one day, another car rolls over into a ditch.  Steve goes to help and pulls singer Belle Mercer (Myrna Loy) out of the wreck.  He takes her to a nearby house and makes sure she’s okay.  To repay the favor, Belle agrees to go to one of Steve’s fights.

Steve is quite infatuated with Belle and is thrilled when she comes to see him, but he soon finds out that she’s the girlfriend of gambler Willie Ryan (Otto Kruger).  That doesn’t deter him from pursuing Belle, though.  He keeps on trying and eventually he wins her over and they get married.  News of their marriage comes as a shock to Willie, but he vows to kill Steve if he ever does anything to hurt Belle.

Belle is a very devoted wife and does everything she can to support Steve’s career, but he isn’t as dedicated to her.  As his career rises, his ego spirals out of control and he starts seeing other women.  She knows what’s going on and after catching him in a lie, she tells Steve that if he messes up again, she’s gone.  Steve promises to behave, but when he hits the road with a vaudeville act, the showgirls are just too tempting.  Belle stays true to her word and goes back to Willie and gets her job back singing in his nightclub.  Steve works his way up to a championship match, but without Belle’s support, he gets depressed and starts hitting the bottle.  On the night of the big fight, Belle goes to the match hoping to see Steve get knocked out.  But as the fight progresses, Belle realizes she still does love him.

The Prizefighter and the Lady was a pretty darn engaging film.  In regards to Myrna Loy’s career, I’m not sure why I haven’t really heard much about her work in this movie because I thought she was great in it.  She made a very sympathetic wife and her quip, “Mother said there’d be days like this,” as Belle is helped out of the car wreck is pure Myrna Loy.  I loved that so many real-life boxers like Max Baer and Primo Carnera appeared in it; the fight scenes were terrific.  My only complaint about this movie was the musical number.  Yes, there really is a musical number in this movie about a boxer.  It didn’t add much of anything to the story and it just slowed down the whole thing.  Other than that, though, it’s a great movie.

Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932)

When traders Harry Holt and James Parker are in Africa about to embark on an expedition to find an infamous elephant graveyard, they’re surprised to find out they will be taking along a guest: James’ daughter Jane (Maureen O’Sullivan).  Jane decided to pay her father a visit when she became frustrated by modern life and wanted to spend some time away from civilization.  James knows the mission will be dangerous and has his doubts about Jane tagging along, but Harry thinks she’s pretty cute and wants her to come along.  James tries explaining to Jane the legend behind the elephant graveyard and how coming along could cost her her life, but she isn’t scared.

As they head out on their quest, it does indeed prove to be quite treacherous.  After passing a particularly dangerous part, the party begins hearing a mysterious yell that sounds more like a human than an animal.  But when their raft is being attacked by hippopotami, they get to meet the man behind the yell, Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller).  Tarzan helps the expedition party, but decides to take Jane back to his home in the trees.  Even though Jane is scared at first, she quickly realizes that he means her no harm.  Harry and James come to rescue her, but when they do, they shoot one of Tarzan’s ape friends under the mistaken impression that it was going to hurt her.  Of course, Tarzan isn’t happy and wants to get back at the explorers.  He manages to capture Jane again and the two of them fall very deeply in love.  But even though Jane loves Tarzan, she’s torn between him and her father.  She leaves Tarzan again to be with her father, but when she does, the expedition is kidnapped by a tribe of pygmies.  As they’re being taken away, Jane sees Tarzan’s closest chimp friend Cheeta and tells him to get Tarzan.  Sure enough, Tarzan comes to the rescue and saves everyone.  But as Jane, Tarzan, Harry, and James are riding away, Jane decides the only place she belongs is with Tarzan.

Adventure movies can be pretty hit-or-miss with me, but I did enjoy Tarzan, the Ape Man.  This was the first time I’d seen any of the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies and now I’m interested in seeing more of the series.  Maureen O’Sullivan was very likable as Jane, Johnny made the perfect Tarzan, and there are plenty of exciting moments to be had.  Never mind the very dated rear projection and special effect shots, it’s still a very entertaining movie.

What’s on TCM: February 2011

In just a few days, 31 Days of Oscar 2011 will be underway!  I’ve been watching 31 Days of Oscar for so long now that I feel like I’ve seen most everything they typically show during this month, but there’s always lots of stuff I’m glad to revisit.  Every year, TCM comes up with a theme to tie together the movies for 31 Days of Oscar and this year the theme is “trivia.”  Each day, TCM will be playing movies that have something in common like retired categories (Feb. 6), “the best of the best” (all of 1939’s Best Picture nominees, Feb. 12), and “nominated for playing a nominee” (March 3).   Be sure to check  TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar website to get the full details and to download a complete schedule.  Now, onto my picks for the month!

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Penthouse (1933)

Penthouse 1933 Myrna Loy Warner Baxter

Jack Durant (Warner Baxter) is a lawyer who relishes taking on cases other lawyers won’t touch.  He loves defending bootleggers, showgirls, and all the other dregs of society, much to the dismay of his law firm partners.  They would much rather work on more respectable cases and fire Jack after he successfully defends the notorious gangster Tony Gazotti.  His fiancée Sue is also not impressed by the company Jack has been keeping and leaves him for Tom Siddall.  But Tom has been seeing Mimi Montagne (Mae Clarke), who is known to hang around with gangsters.  When Sue agrees to marry Tony, she tells him to end things with Mimi.  Mimi is furious and calls up gangster Jim Crelliman and Jim arranges it so Mimi can publicly humiliate Tom at a party.  When Tom shows up at the party, he and Mimi go out onto the balcony.  Next thing anyone knows, there’s a gunshot and Mimi is dead on the balcony with Tom holding a gun.  Of course, Tom is arrested.  The only person who believes Tom is innocent is Sue, who convinces Jack to take the case.  At first he doesn’t want to, but eventually he comes around to it.  He starts investigating the case with a little help from Tony Gazotti and Mimi’s roommate Gertie Waxted (Myrna Loy), a good-hearted call girl.  But in the process of investigating the crime, Jack falls in love with Gertie.

Penthouse is a true pre-code gem.  The writing is very sharp and innuendo filled, it’s full of some fabulous art deco sets, there are some great suspenseful moments, and it’s quite fast paced.  It’s only 90 minutes long and those 90 minutes just fly by.  I really liked Warner Baxter, he seemed to be having so much fun with his role, and I always like Mynra Loy.  Warner and Myrna were naturals together.  It’s like this was Myrna getting practice for The Thin Man, which came out the following year.  Penthouse is a movie that also appeals to so many different genres.  It’s a gangster movie, it’s a murder mystery, it’s got a love story, and it’s a pre-code all rolled into one.  If you see this one come up on TCM, it’s absolutely worth checking out.  It was so much fun to watch, I just love it!