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Discussion in 'Movies' started by Mysto, Apr 10, 2018.
I watch Lady in the Lake every Christmas season.
I love The Lady in the Lake! No, Robert Montgomery can't hold a candle to Bogart, Dick Powell, or Robert Mitchum as Philip Marlowe, but the mystery is still very good, and the first person point of view filming gives the movie a unique look and feel.
I wrote at some length earlier in this thread about the films in the volume 2 collection of The Falcon movies, all starring Tom Conway. I went ahead and treated myself this week with Volume 1 of the collection with the first entries starring George Sanders before he turned the series over to his brother. I watched The Gay Falcon today. The mystery was easy enough to guess, but I still enjoyed Sanders' smooth delivery and his easy way with a raft of ladies like Wendy Barrie and Gladys Cooper. I'm sure I'll enjoy all of the subsequent movies in the set which I will watch sporadically so as not to burn through them too quickly.
In between various Christmas selections over the past few days, I've been continuing with my George Sanders/Falcon revisits. I did A Date with the Falcon yesterday (Wendy Barrie very tiresome) and The Falcon Takes Over today, a nice little condensation of Farewell, My Lovely.
Yesterday and today, I have made the transition from George Sanders to Tom Conway in the series by watching the next three installments. Cliff Edwards is my least favorite Goldie.
Thanks for keeping the thread alive while I was gone Matt. Next week I'll try to start posting summaries again.
I agree on Cliff Edwards - I like the guy but not as Goldie.
"Murder On The Blackboard" (RKO-1934)
Edna May Oliver and James Gleason, Bruce Cabot
This is RKO's second Hildegard Withers Mystery staring Edna May Oliver as the title school teacher / amateur detective, and James Gleason as Police Inspector Oscar Piper. RKO turned out a number of these little murder comedies, the first three featuring the angular Oliver who ably personified author Stuart Palmer's prudish spinster with persimmon sourness and acid wit. She was by far the most successful of all the actresses that followed her in the role. (Scroll back a few pages to read Marv's comprehensive review of the entire series).
The story line focuses on two of Hildegard's fellow teachers, Jane Davis (Gertrude Michael) and Louise Halloran (Barbara Fritchie--not related to the flag-waving heroine of the 1863 poem) who both unknowingly share affection for the same man, Addison Stevens (Bruce Cabot--his first role since debuting in King Kong). Louise, the school's music teacher is found dead by Hildegard after leaving a cryptic music score on her blackboard. Hildegard immediately calls on choleric pal Inspector Piper to assist her in deciphering the mystery.
Hildy to a particularly boastful, cigar-chewing Piper: "Quit acting like a movie detective--there's been a murder!"
"I'll have a look at that!" brags the oft-inept Piper.
"You'll have a look at it?" she sniffs, "That'll clear it all up, I'm sure!"
Evidence initially points to the drunken janitor who creepily inhabits the school's dark and jumbled cellar, among crates of bootlegged Duggan's Dew of Kirkintiloch scotch. Shot on RKO's famous "Back Forty" lot in Culver City, one has to appreciate the film's dialogue, lighting and set decorations that reflect Hollywood's '30's vision of "normal" people's lives in NYC.
After paying the fare of a taxi ride, Hildegard's driver snarkly points out "You've given me a dime too much, lady..."
"A dime's a dime! Remember, you're a taxi driver and not a gigolo", she snaps. I don't exactly get her comparison, but I laughed anyway.
True to form, Inspector Piper always reckons anyone and everyone on every case as mistrustful, so new suspects enter the picture. "You've rounded up a lot of helpless women", accuses Hildegard.
"I've never seen a helpless woman in my life", snorts Piper in defense.
The murderer is eventually identified by Louise's musical notes on her blackboard that spell out the first letters of the culprit's name. Clever, eh?
The Hildegard Withers' character is an easily amalgamated rendition of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple and later, Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote. Edna May Oliver eventually jumped ship at RKO for a far more lucrative contract at MGM, showing up in A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and Pride and Prejudice--just to name a few of her accomplishments. She unfortunately passed away at age 52 of a terminal intestinal ailment. I must admit, I thought the good lady was at least 52 when she was filming the Withers mysteries some ten years earlier.
NOTE: The great character actor Regis Toomey had a bit part as Smiley North, a detective with an IQ on par with a coffee table, and a forerunner of the many police detectives he would play in film and TV during his very long career. Regis left us at the ripe old age of 93 in 1991.
I watched Murder on the Bridle Path (with Helen Broderick as Miss Withers) and only found it OK. No one can match Edna Mae Oliver for acidity and biting exasperation.
Yeah, Marv...brush off the cobwebs and start yawping again. We can't hold down the fort as well as you, ya old coot.
Did your cruise go well? I see that since you made it back you must not have had one too many Mojitos and tumble overboard as shark chum.
I'm missing you guys. My Son and DIL were here for the cruise and stayed for a few days - that means I lost the home theater (it's also the guest room) and didn't get to watch much on the TV either. Now we are getting ready for my Daughter to arrive (losing the Theater again) and I'm off to Columbus OH for a convention. I know it sounds like we are so active but in reality I don't have a life. It just all came at once. I will get the posting going (I only have a handful left and most are ones I don't care much for (that may also explain why it's been hard to finish)). After I get those done I will continue to do individual reviews but I was thinking of starting a thread on all vintage mysteries. We had discussed it back up the thread a-ways.
Anyway - I will get some stuff going as some of my favorite people reside here.
I'm well familiar with a houseful of relatives and their bring-along pets that crowd out dear old Dad's favorite spots. That's the price I pay for having the biggest house. Our relatives don't think twice about checking into the Russ & Dawn Hotel as ever being a possible inconvenience to us.
But enough relative-bashing. I'm interested in how you see expanding the thread to include all vintage mysteries. I've thought about a '50's-60's mysteries thread (both film and TV) to possibly draw our 77 SS crowd who are into that time period. I haven't checked this enormous forum to see if that genre already exists here, though.
I saw The Plot Thickens today, the first of two Hildegarde Withers mysteries with Zazu Pitts as Miss Withers. Boy, was she miscast! Not nearly prickly enough and kind of a wimp in terms of investigation. Also, unlike the Edna Mae Oliver entries, Miss Withers doesn't solve the crime this time out, Oscar Piper does.
To cleanse my palette, I went to the shelf and pulled out Murder on the Blackboard, a REAL Hildegarde Withers mystery.
I finally convinced my wife to watch one of the Hildegard Withers mysteries with me last night. Up next on my Withers agenda was "Murder On A Honeymoon", the final edition of Edna May Oliver's run as the title schoolmarm / detective. Too bad. It was the least interesting of her portrayals. Instead of flexing acerbic wit, Oliver was more prone to roll her eyes and sniff indifferently in lieu of tossing out biting remarks that we've come to expect. Additionally, Inspector Piper (James Gleason) was reduced even more to a cartoonish figure, offering up an overly emphatic "awwww, nuts!" as a predictable response to every situation that arose. I would have expected better from a screenplay written by humorist Robert Benchley.
The film did have an interesting aspect in that it takes place in Southern California (Catalina) instead of NYC (back lot of RKO, actually), so at least we were served a different landscape to chew on.
Nowhere near the tastiness of The Penguin Pool Murder or Murder On The Blackboard, this series' edition was somewhat of a disappointment and didn't near live up to the sparkling buildup of the series I promised my wife.
I am to make her dinner tonight in retribution.
Happy New Year, guys! I'm back from a nice, but overlong, visit to my own in-laws. I'm sure my father-in-law felt much the way Russ did about his own family crowding his home. Can't say as I blame him. Now that I'm back in my own place (and on a looong winter break from work), it's time for some serious film and TV watching!
Thanks for the reviews of the Hildegarde Withers series, guys! I don't have this set yet, unfortunately, but I do plan on getting it eventually, mixed bag though it appears to be. Plan to contribute a bit more of actual substance to this thread in the coming weeks. Also would be down for a "Mystery and Crime Films of the 50s and 60s" as well...those also being MY favorite decades for film.
Been curious, Russ...why don't we see your witty comments on other threads, besides 77 Sunset Strip and this one? Is it a lack of interest in the other thread subjects? Not trying to be too personal, just genuinely curious. I know this is a big forum, with a daunting number of posts, etc. But I do think other threads would benefit from your patronage. It's always nice to see posts by Marv and Steve pop up elsewhere, and of course Matt has his tendrils everywhere. (Seriously, where do you get the time to watch so much stuff, Matt? You must be a master of time management.)
I'm retired and single; that helps.
I watched The Falcon and the Co-Eds today, that final single disc in the first Falcon DVD set. I was afraid before I watched it that it was going to be a gaggle of squealing girls all over Tom Lawrence for the entire movie, so I was relieved that there was only a little bit of that. It was a good mystery and a well disguised killer right up to the end.
The "being single" part helps a heck of a lot. Marriage and kids do tend to cut down on the free time.
The Falcon and the Co-Eds is one of my favorite Falcon entries, some real nice mysterious atmosphere in that one.
Welcome back, Jeff!
Thanks for your question--my wife asked me the same thing recently as to why I don't expand into other threads in this forum since I enjoy writing commentaries so much.
A little background (and probably more explanation than you care to know...)--
I never knew this Forum even existed until a year ago when I was attempting to peddle my 77 Sunset Strip interest in the Noirish LA thread in the SkyScraper forum (with almost no success) when someone kindly pointed me to the 77 SS thread here in HTF. At the time, it was only 14 pages long. Marv popped in later on to add his thoughts on the TV series and invited those of us to visit his mystery thread. I was highly impressed by his thoughtful and concise reviews of all the old film series of the genre. There just aren't enough of us that spend the time and effort to write such researched commentaries which can generate interest and responses, so I jumped in with my own input as I truly like this genre. My hope was of assisting Marv in expanding his readership. Honestly, I way overestimated whatever drawing power I might have. But no matter, I truly like writing my own thoughts on series like The Saint, Torchy Blane , Hildegarde Withers, Charlie Chan et al.
So--to answer your question--
As you say, this is a damn big forum. I simply haven't taken the time to explore the entirety of its parameters--and I don't think it offers a very comprehensive index to assist in such an exploration. I'm sure it might contain other subjects in which I'd be interested. (Is there a Perry Mason thread? I could get into that.) But even though I'm retired and have time on my hands, it takes hours to research and write a single commentary to the point of me being satisfied enough with its content to finally post. It may not seem like it to others--but I really try to make my posts relevant, informative and entertaining. Although I genuinely appreciate your compliment that other threads would benefit from my patronage, I just dunno about that.
I'd like to add that I'm a bit miffed that neither this or our 77 SS thread ever gets a mention in the weekly Forum highlights--which seems to concentrate mostly on the same subjects and contributors (some of which have seemingly been around since Franklin Pierce was in office). I guess if we don't have a gazillion posts, we're inconsequential.
So with all that being so laboriously explained, Jeff--now that you're back with time on your hands--get prolific, dude!
Thanks for that, Russ - appreciate the explanation! Having written a blog in the past, I'm very much aware of how time-consuming it can be to do a proper write-up. Many of my posts on said blog were 24-25 paragraphs long. Eventually it became a bit too much work, and when actual work got busier (and with the addition of a toddler to contend with) I stopped doing it. This forum has in essence replaced it as a quasi-creative outlet, though I tend to post at a more succinct length, understandably.
I do actually write a fair amount on the forum on a regular basis, particularly in the "What did you watch this week on Classic TV on DVD (or Blu)?" thread. In fact, I posted mini-reviews for every vintage TV show I watched throughout 2018 (which amounted to over 300 hours and 123 different shows) - surely boring the pants off a number of HTF members in the process. I also participate in a bunch of other threads - predominantly on the TV on DVD board, but also the Blu-Ray and Movie ones as well. Hope you eventually branch out if and when the mood strikes you, even if it's just a casual observation or note here and there.
Re: finding threads on other shows or subjects you might be interested in...you can go to the TV on DVD board and type in the name of a particular series (such as Perry Mason) in the Search toolbar and find most things. Quite a few show-specific threads might need resurrecting, however, but most generally get some feedback once someone bothers to bump them up.
Thanks again for taking the time to respond.
Your reviews are very much appreciated. They are always funny but more important - insightful. I may not always agree with your views but I always respect them. Thanks for everything you've done for this thread and for the 77SS one.
I know how hard it is to do these summaries. I am working on one now. Because it has been a long time since I have watched many of these movies (there are a lot) I feel I have to re-watch at least some of the series to get back in the groove and give a fair appraisal. I try to research each as well and it takes time and effort. I just hope it adds to the enjoyment of the genre and the hobby for forum members.
ADDED: Russ I think to get on the highlights you have to be trending - a lot of heavy activity in a short duration. Early when I started on this forum I started a thread on movies you've watched over 10 times. It caught on like wildfire for a few days and did appear on the highlights. But I agree. It would be nice to see this and the 77SS strip appear at least once. It would probably bring others in that might enjoy the threads but haven't seen them.
Easiest way I can say your stuff counts - I've watched several Brit TV shows based on your reviews. Nuff said. Thanks and thanks for your contributions to this thread.
And look - I just made it to 500.