The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942) William Keighley

dinner2What would happen if you took an arrogant, caustic and cynical New York City intellectual and transplanted him into the heartland of America? That was the premise of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s hit play, The Man Who Came to Dinner.  The play premiered on Broadway in October 1939 and ran for more than two years, 730 performances to be exact.[1] Legend has it Moss Hart came up with the idea after a visit from the prickly theater critic, New Yorker columnist, Alexander Woollcott, to his country home and began making one demand after another, including shutting off the heat and insisting on a bed time snack consisting of cookies and a milkshake.  Woollcott was a member of the famed Algonquin Round Table, a self-proclaimed group of witty and sometimes verbally vicious intellectuals trading barbs and witticisms. They met every day for lunch at the Algonquin Hotel. Among the members were Dorothy Parker, Harpo Marx, Robert Benchley, George S. Kaufman, Robert E. Sherwood, Heywood Broun, Ruth Hale (Broun’s wife) and Marc Connelly. There were other members, some officially part of the group and others who were unofficial occasional visitors. Continue reading

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) Frank Capra

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Arsenic and Old Lace is the story of two sweet and charming elderly sisters who happen to be mass murderers. It’s a delightfully hysterical farcical comedy with some dark overtones.  Perfect for this time of the year and especially on Halloween. Continue reading

The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1947) Preston Sturges

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   The first half of The Sin of Harold Biddlebock kicks off promising, however, the second half grinds on like a car in stop and go traffic. It has its good spots but it’s a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. One would believe, or at least hope, that the combination of Harold Lloyd and Preston Sturges would yield a solid golden treasure. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The film displays bits of social commentary that keep it interesting. Of course, it gave us one last chance to see the great Harold Lloyd on screen. Still, in careers filled with so many highs, it remains a minor effort for both the director and star. Continue reading

Lady on a Train (1945) Charles David

 

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   Deanna Durbin spent the majority of her short career, she retired in her late twenties, at Universal where she made a series of light, but popular musicals that made her one of the top stars of the time. However, like many artists, Durbin wanted to do something different. In 1944 and 1945, she got her chance with the film noir, Christmas Holiday and the following year with the comedy/mystery film, Lady on a Train. Neither film did well at the box office. Durbin soon returned to her musicals until she retired, married her third husband, director Charles David, and moved to France where she lived for the rest of her life. Continue reading

Juano Hernandez and Intruder in the Dust

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Juano Hernandez’s early days are not clearly defined. Various sources claim he was born in either 1896, 1898 or 1900. A consensus seems to be for the 1896 date…but who knows. All agree he died in 1970 and that he was born in Puerto Rico to a Puerto Rican father and a mother of Brazilian decent. Hernandez was orphaned pretty early on and soon was living with an aunt in Brazil. It was while living in Brazil that Hernandez got his first taste of performing. The young boy joined a group of street kids and began performing in public: singing, dancing and acrobatics. Juano eventually joined a carnival and worked his way around Latin America and the Caribbean, eventually making his way into the United States. During this period, he taught himself to read, write and learned various languages. A multitude of jobs followed from working in the circus to becoming a professional boxer. Continue reading

It Happened in Brooklyn (1947) Richard Whorf

Happened5As the title states, It Happened it Brooklyn, takes place in New York City’s largest, population wise, borough. To be more specific, the film takes place in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn at New Utrecht High School. It’s located on 80th street between New Utrecht Avenue and 16th Avenue. That’s about three blocks from where I lived long ago. I am being so specific here because, as you may have already guessed, New Utrecht, is my high school alma mater. Most of the film, except for a few early scenes in the film, take place at the school. Of course, the school you see on screen is a set in Hollywood. To see the real school, all one has to do is watch the opening credits of Welcome Back, Kotter. Those shot of the school in the background as an elevated train passes by is New Utrecht. As an aside, the series star, Gabe Kaplan was an alumni of the school. Continue reading

Framed (1947) Richard Wallace

framed1947Framed is James M. Cain light. It’s Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice, shaken and stirred. All the ingredients are there, the protagonist, the sap of a guy falling hard for a duplicitous femme fatale who crosses and double crosses anyone who gets in her way. There’s also the dame’s lover, a debonair, adulterous, underhanded white-collar thief masquerading as a model citizen. Continue reading