Merry Christmas!

Since the Mayans were apparently off in their predictions, it looks as if we can actually make plans for Christmas. Sadly, Santa has been slacking off all year, and only now is he getting prepared for Christmas. He has a year’s worth of work to do over the weekend, but Stan and Ollie are doing their part. They’re working on wooden toy rabbits right now, but I hear that they will soon start work on making ipods and ipads.


During this time of year, we sometimes start to think about the Christmas holidays of the past. Perhaps you have wondered what movies were playing at the theatres. Well, if you happened to live in Shelby, North Carolina during the Christmas of 1924, this theatre program from the New Princess Theatre would tell you what was playing and also how to get there by bus from Charlotte, North Carolina!





For the record, the film shown on Christmas day was MGM’s “The Bandolero.” There seems to have been some printer’s error. In any case, the film selection seems like it would have been vastly entertaining.

Merry Christmas! Enjoy the holiday, and be sure to watch some of the great holiday classics. Speaking personally, I’ll be watching “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947) tonight. Thinking about it, I’m rather glad that the Mayans were wrong.

MGM’s 1931 Christmas Party!

I love Christmas. It’s honestly a great time of the year. However, there is one aspect about it about which I’m a bit of a Scrooge. That aspect is the Christmas party. Frankly, I avoid them like the plague. I always find some excuse to get out of going to them. When a friend asked me once about why I was not attending a family Christmas reunion, I said that I wanted to still be able to laugh at “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” instead of seeing a horrific reminder of family reunions gone bad. Anyway, if I was somehow forced to go to some Christmas party but given the choice of any of them (both fictional and non-fictional), I’d have to consider the 1931 MGM Christmas party.


Poor Jackie Cooper. He wants to treat his fellow football team mates to a Christmas party at his home. However, to his chagrin, he finds out that the invitation that he gave to his friends has been extended out to almost every child in the Culver City area. What is he to do? Well, what else other than to get Louis B. Mayer to allow him the use of an MGM sound stage! However, how is he going to get Mr. Mayer to agree to that?


Jackie’s solution is actually amazingly simple. Cajole Norma Shearer, the Queen of the MGM lot, to intercede for Jackie! A brilliant solution if I may say so! Does Mr. Mayer agree to Jackie’s request? He does, and since MGM was lacking for help, he drafts all of his stars into service!


Does anyone recognize the Great Schnozzle Jimmy Durante under the Santa beard?


Of course, MGM couldn’t just hire any old chef to cook the turkeys – so they press Marie Dressler, Wallace Beery, and Polly Moran into KP duty! I guess that they didn’t read the fine print on their contracts.


Clark Gable, at the beginning of his over 20 year tenure at MGM, seems to be in the Christmas spirit as he serves turkey and mash potatoes.


Charlotte Greenwood is very happy to help out and sing the virtues of milk to the guests. Apparently, drinking milk has made her very limber.


Even being a Barrymore doesn’t exempt one from being a waiter. Lionel Barrymore discovers here that the biscuits are very hot.


Does anyone want to be served any seconds by Leila Hyams? I’ll confess that I would.


These children didn’t need to wish upon a star to get served some turkey from Cliff “Ukelele Ike” Edwards.


Judah Ben-Hur himself (or Ramon Novarro if you insist) is very happy to extend as much hospitality as possible to the guests.


Marion Davies proves herself to be very susceptible to flattery as this lucky boy will soon find out.


At the end of the meal, what would you want to have? Dessert, of course? Can anything be better than that? How about being served dessert by Anita Page? Awesome is the only word that comes to mind. Apparently, Anita’s favorite pie is pumpkin (at least according to the screen writer).


Towards the end of the festivities (and you have to wonder if MGM will be deducting the cost of the party from Jackie’s salary), Jackie addresses his audience and wishes them a Merry Christmas on behalf of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Fade out to the ending title.


This one-reeler is typically shown a few times during the Christmas season on Turner Classic Movies during the breaks between the movies. Keep your eyes pealed and you may be able to catch it. Alternatively, it is available as an extra on the DVD of the 1938 MGM version of “A Christmas Carol” (which I actually think is a pretty good version of the Dickens story. Not the best, but still a very good version). With all of that said, Film Classics in Color wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


The Great Silent Actors in Color!

Several weeks ago, we took a look at some of the leading ladies of the silent film era. Today, we will be giving the men their proper due. Seven of the most celebrated actors of the silent period will be the focus of today’s post.

An established stage actor, Douglas Fairbanks (1883 – 1939) entered films in 1915 at Triangle. Within a year’s time, he had become one of the most popular film stars. Prior to 1920, Fairbanks primarily made social, drawing-room comedies that made use of his natural humor and athlethicism. In 1920, for a change of pace, Fairbanks made The Mark of Zorro. This swashbuckling film became a box office success upon its release. With the mediocre audience reception given for his next film, the modern-dress comedy The Nut, Fairbanks decided to devote himself to producing and starring in swashbucklers. For the next decade, Fairbanks played adventurers ranging from Robin Hood to D’artagnan. Fairbanks made the transition to sound films, but by then he had lost much of enthusiasm for film making. Also, with the changing times and tastes, his films were not as successful as they had been years earlier. After making The Private Life of Don Juan (1934) for Alexander Korda, Fairbanks retired and died five years later of a heart attack.

Douglas Fairbanks, Theodore Roberts, and Marjorie Daw in “Arizona” (1918)

The still seen is above is from Arizona (1918). At some point in the past, an anonymous reviewer wrote this note in pencil on the back of the still: “Doug directed this one himself and it was pretty bad.” This note takes on a poignant tone when we realize that we will never likely know whether or not this reviewer is right. Arizona is sadly among the many films from the silent era that may no longer exist.

An Italian immigrant, Rudolph Valentino (1895 – 1926) found himself working in a variety of odd jobs in New York before finding work as a taxi dancer in dance halls, night clubs, and eventually the stage. In 1917, he arrived in Hollywood after having been on tour with a stage musical. Prior to 1921, he was primarily cast in bit roles as exotic, ethnic characters and villains. In 1921, he played the leads in two movies that would define his career: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalpyse and The Sheik. In an era when ladies were called flappers, the men were called sheiks after the popularity of the Valentino picture. Ladies of the time loved Valentino and embraced him as the great Latin lover. On the other hand, men tended to view him with much skepticism and at times derision. Valentino’s sudden death in 1926 from a perforated ulcer caused a media sensation not unlike what was seen about fifty years later with the death of Elvis Presley.

Rudolph Valentino and Agnes Ayres in “The Sheik” (1921)

Interestingly enough, Valentino has had a relatively successful post-mortem career. In the 1930s, when many of his still living contemporaries had been forgotten, Valentino still had a legion of devoted fans. In 1937 and 1938, three of Valentino’s signature films, The Sheik (1921), The Eagle (1925), and The Son of the Sheik (1926), were retro-fitted with recorded musical scores and reissued with much acclaim to theatres. It is a testament to Valentino’s popularity that these three silent films did better box office business than many of the current, first-run sound films of the time. The still seen above was published specifically for the 1938 reissue of The Sheik.

Richard Barthelmess (1895 – 1963) entered into the film industry in 1916 after being discovered by family friend Alla Nazimova. Lillian Gish, his co-star in the D.W. Griffith films Broken Blossoms (1919) and Way Down East (1920) said that Barthelmess had “the most beautiful face of any male who ever went before the camera.” Throughout the 1920s,  Barthelmess made many popular films including Tol’able David (1921), The Patent Leather Kid (1927), and The Noose (1928). He made a successful transition to sound. However, by the early 1930s, his popularity had started to wane. Barthelmess retired from the screen in 1942. The still seen below is taken from Shore Leave (1925). The film survives and is said to contain an off-beat, comedic performance from Barthelmess.

John Barrymore (1882 – 1942), also known as the Great Profile, was born into a stage family. John almost naturally found himself following his family vocation (following a stint as a newspaper cartoonist), and he made his stage debut in 1903. He quickly became one of the leading actors of the era and was celebrated for his portrayals of the title roles in the Shakespeare plays Richard III and Hamlet. Beginning in 1913, Barrymore also found time to mix his stage work with film acting. Some of Barrymore’s more well-known silent films include Raffles (1917), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), Don Juan (1926), The Beloved Rogue (1927), and Tempest (1928). He often played great lover/adventurer roles, but he also tried to include some grotesque/mad scenes into his films.

John Barrymore and Camilla Horn in “Tempest” (1928)

Barrymore was a natural for sound films given his excellent voice and stage experience, and he did star in several excellent films throughout the 1930s. However, the coming of sound roughly coincided with the beginning of his physical and mental deterioration brought about by his health, personal life, and alcoholism. In spite of these problems, Barrymore always managed to turn in excellent work up until his death in 1942.

William Powell (1892 – 1984) and Wallace Beery (1885 – 1949) were two silent character actors that benefited tremendously from the sound transition. In the silents, they were rarely afforded the leading roles. Powell was mostly cast as villains, and Beery was often case as either villains or comical oafs. With sound, they both propelled to leading man status and audience favorites. Due to his distinguished sounding voice, Powell now played sophisticated leading man roles (e.g. One Way Passage (1932) and The Thin Man (1934)). Beery, with his gravelly sounding voice, was able to play his  villainous and “lovable slob” roles with far more nuances and versatility (e.g. The Big House (1930), The Champ (1931), and China Seas (1935)). Interestingly enough, these two men did their most well-known work at MGM during the 1930s and 1940s, but their only film collaboration was done in the 1928 Paramount feature Partners in Crime. A still from that feature may be seen below. Also seen in the still are Raymond Hatton (1887 – 1971) on the far right and Arthur Housman (1889 – 1942) in the center under Beery. Hatton was a profilic actor whose career extended from the teens to the golden age of television. Housman may be best remembered today for his comic drunk routine often seen in the films of Laurel & Hardy and Harold Lloyd.

William Powell, Wallace Beery, Arthur Housman, and Raymond Hatton in “Partners in Crime” (1928)

Lon Chaney (1883 -1930), also known as “The Man of a Thousand Faces,” played in more than 150 films between 1912 and 1930. While perhaps best known for The Phantom of the Opera (1925) and a series of macabre films he made for director Tod Browning, those films only make up a small portion of his film work. Chaney should probably be best remembered for being one of the great character actors of the screen who well used his acting and make-up skills to play a variety of roles such as the physically deformed gangster Blizzard in The Penalty (1920), Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), and a Marine sergeant in Tell It to the Marines (1926). The still seen below is from While the City Sleeps (1928). This crime drama was MGM’s answer to the popular Paramount crime thriller Underworld (1927).

Lon Chaney and Richard Carle in “While the City Sleeps” (1928)

There has been much speculation about what Chaney would have accomplished in sound films had he not died in 1930 from throat cancer. His only sound feature, The Unholy Three (1930), reveals a fine and strong speaking voice that would have served him well in sound. Some believe that Chaney would have played the title role of Dracula instead of Bela Lugosi in the 1931 film. While that is certainly possible (especially since it was directed by frequent Chaney collaborator Tod Browning), I do not believe that this casting would have been assured. Chaney and MGM would have had to agree to a loan-out to Universal to do the picture. While loan outs did occur with some frequency (MGM did lend out its top star Clark Gable several times during the early 1930s), I do not necessarily see this particular loan out happening. Most likely, Chaney would have done most of his sound work at MGM. If so, I can his career path taking a few different but simulataneous paths. In response to Universal’s successful horror films Dracula and Frankenstein, I see MGM starring Chaney in a few horror films. Perhaps Chaney would have starred in The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) instead of Boris Karloff. In response to popular crime thrillers like Little Caesar (1930), The Public Enemy (1931), and Scarface (1932), MGM probably would have featured Chaney in some crime thrillers. Perhaps Chaney would have been featured in The Big House (1930) and The Secret Six (1931) instead of Wallace Beery. Furthermore, I can see Chaney taking some of the roles that MGM assigned to actors such as Walter Huston, Wallace Beery, and Lionel Barrymore.

Thanks for reading today’s post. We have several entries already under construction. Please come back again later!

Happy Thanksgiving!

The attached press snipe: A THANKSGIVING MARCH. Dorothy Jordan and Anita Page, two exceedingly charming Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer featured players, believe in following their turkey around until the fatal Thanksgiving morn. They’re taking no chances! Poor old turk, but what has to be, will be.

Movie Series in Color

With the recent release of Skyfall, there have been 23 official releases in the James Bond series. In the half-century since the release of the first Bond film Dr. No, the James Bond films have aptly demonstrated that the movie-going public embraces the concept of a continuing series of movies with the same characters often played by the same actors and actresses. Movie series have been seen since nearly the dawn of cinema, and today we will be taking a brief and colorful look at five iconic movie series.

Murder mysteries have long captivated audiences. There is nothing more entertaining than to see a master detective or even an amateur sleuth uncover the truth behind some baffling and odd murder. Most of the major studios produced at least one continuing series of murder mysteries. MGM produced the Thin Man films with William Powell and Myrna Loy (these films will be the subject of a future color transfer series). Paramount produced a few Philo Vance films in the late 1920s and early 1930s with William Powell and would later release a series of Bulldog Drummond films featuring John Barrymore and John Howard. RKO produced the Saint films with George Sanders. Columbia produced the Boston Blackie films with Chester Morris and the Lone Wolf series with Warren William. Warner Brothers produced a series of Torchy Blane films with Glenda Farrell and a number of Perry Mason films. Twentieth Century-Fox produced the Mr. Moto films with Peter Lorre and the Michael Shayne films with Lloyd Nolan. Their most popular series of murder mysteries was arguably the Charlie Chan films.

Warner Oland as Charlie Chan in the lost film “Charlie Chan Carries On” (1931)

Charlie Chan was a Chinese-American detective created by novelist Earl Derr Biggers. The character was first seen on the screen in a 1926 movie serial adaptation of Biggers’ novel The House without a Key. In 1929, the rights to the character and Biggers’ novels were secured by the Fox Movie Corporation. Behind That Curtain (1929) was Fox’s first film with the Charlie Chan character, but the character played a very minor role in what was otherwise a Warner Baxter film. It was not until 1931 when a proper series of Charlie Chan films commenced. Character actor Warner Oland played the detective in these films from 1931 to 1937. Audiences enthusiastically embraced Oland’s wry protrayal of the detective, and the twelve surviving films featuring Oland as Chan are audience favorites to this day.  With the death of Oland in 1938, Fox continued the Chan series with Sidney Toler. When Fox declined to make any further Chan films in 1942, Sidney Toler picked up the rights and continued making the films (albeit with much lower budgets now) at Monogram Pictures. Upon Toler’s death in 1947, Roland Winters played Chan in the six additional films until 1949.

Rosina Lawrence, Charles Quigley, and Warner Oland in “Charlie Chan’s Secret” (1936)

Adventure films have long been popular with audiences desiring escapism. Perhaps the quintessential adventure film series is the series of 12 Tarzan films produced at MGM and RKO featuring Johnny Weissmuller. Tarzan was the creation of writer Edgar Rice Burroughs. The character made his first leap into the movies in 1918 with Elmo Lincoln playing the King of the Jungle. Weissmuller first appeared as Tarzan in 1932 in Tarzan the Ape Man. From 1932 to 1942, six Tarzan films were produced at MGM. All of them feature Maureen O’Sullivan as Tarzan’s jungle wife Jane. Johnny Sheffield entered the series in Tarzan Finds a Son (1939) as Tarzan and Jane’s adopted son Boy.

Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan as Tarzan and Jane

Beginning in 1943, the Tarzan series moved over to Sol Lesser’s unit at RKO. Weissmuller played Tarzan for six additional films before Lex Barker took over in 1949. Johnny Sheffield returned as Boy, but Brenda Joyce replaced Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane.

Johnny Weismuller, Frances Gifford, and Johnny Sheffield in “Tarzan Triumphs” (1943)

Arguably being the most successful film series produced at MGM, the Andy Hardy films delighted film audiences from the small towns up to the White House (FDR was reportedly a fan). The series originally focused upon the lives of the entire Hardy family in the midwest small town of Carvel. However, the emphasis soon shifted to the misadventures of the son Andy Hardy as played by Mickey Rooney. The films of the series usually centered around some problem (usually relating to some combination of money and girls) that Andy had gotten himself into, and there was always the inevitable “man to man” talk that Andy would have with his father (played by veteran actor Lewis Stone) to try to sort out these problems. MGM used this series also as a testing ground for several contract actresses to see how the audience would respond to them. Donna Reed, Kathryn Grayson, and Esther Williams were among these actresses. There were a total of 15 films made in this series from 1936 to 1946 with one reunion film produced in 1958.

Ann Rutherford, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, and Lana Turner in “Love Finds Andy Hardy” (1938)

The first comic strip is often cited as beginning in the 1890s with R.F. Outcault’s The Yellow Kid. This makes the rise of the comic strip contemporary with the first movies. It should not be surprising then that there has been siginificant crossing over with the movies and the comics starting from those early days. Audiences could see both live action and animated cinematic versions of some of their favorite comic strips. The most successful of these cross-overs is arguably the series of 28 Blondie films produced at Columbia from 1938 to 1950. Chic Young created Blondie in 1930 as a comic strip about a flapper. However, with the tenor of the times, Young switched the format of the strip to make it a domestric strip with Blondie marrying Dagwood Bumstead and soon starting a family with him. The casting of Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake as Blondie and Dagwood may be the most inspired case of casting in Hollywood history because the two of them did physically resembly their comic strip counterparts. Singleton and Lake reprised their roles on the radio, and Lake also briefly played Dagwood again for a 1957 television series.

Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake in “Blondie’s Big Moment” (1947)

The final film series we will look at is the 1960s Beach Party series. The official seven Beach Party films were produced at American International from 1963 to 1967. They mostly revolve around a group of youngsters (lead by Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in most of the films) partying at a local beach and getting into some wacky mischief. Are they great films? No. The plots are decidedly inane, but they have a goofy charm to them that make them watchable. They also feature some great veteran actors such as Buster Keaton and Basil Rathbone. Seen below is a still of Witch Doctor Buster Keaton conjuring up Bobbi Shaw in How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965). In the film, Frankie Avalon employs Buster to put a spell on Annette to prevent her from falling prey to the advances of Dwayne Hickman (TV’s Dobie Gillis). Yes, I’m not making that up.

Buster Keaton and Bobbi Shaw in “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini” (1965)

There is one interesting item to note about Buster’s appearance in How to Stuff a Wild Bikini. Towards the end of the film, Elizabeth Montgomery makes a brief cameo appearance as Buster’s daughter. Thirty-five years earlier, Elizabeth’s father Robert Montgomery had a supporting role in Buster’s first talkie, Free and Easy (1930).

The next in this series will be a look at some of the leading men of the silent film era. I hope to profile five or six of the men of this period. I hope to get it done within the next two weeks. I also hope to have a new post for the Movie of the Week series prepared within the next few days as well. Thanks for reading!

Halloween 2012

It’s Halloween again. I must admit that I have two reasons for liking this particular holiday. First, I always take advantage of the inevitable candy sales on November 1 (it always seems as if my candy is always out of date). Second, this holiday gives me an excuse to watch some great classic horror films. Granted, I do watch them throughout the year, but there is something special about watching them in mid October. Anyway, here are a few items that I hope will interest you.

The Universal horror films are arguably the gold standard of the vintage horror genre. The Phantom of the Opera (1925) can perhaps be viewed as the archetype for the genre. Lon Chaney’s performance as the tortured Erik is still definitive amongst the various adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera. Seen above is a still of Mary Philbin as Christine Daaé. I suppose the Phantom does not realize that it is rude to point at people. The still dates to the 1930 sound reissue of the film according to the press markings on the back.

You rang? One of my favorite sitcoms from the 1960s is The Addams Family. What would Halloween be like without this delightfully oddball family? There are few shows that I consider to be truly rewatchable, and this shows is among them. Lest I offend any readers, I do like The Munsters too. Seen below is a 1960s era postcard that Filmways, Inc. supplied to fans of the show.

The reverse side of the post card.

There are two things that I can guarantee for today. First, at least one of the trick-or-treaters that will greet me will be dressed up as the Grim Reaper. Second, none of those trick-or-treaters will be either as stylish or as foreboding as Fredric March was in Death Takes a Holiday (1934). The lovely lady seen with March in the still below is Evelyn Venable.

Does anything scream Halloween more than Vincent Price? How about Edgar Allan Poe? How about Vincent Price in a loose adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe tale?

To close out this post, here is a lobby card from The Evil of Frankenstein (1964).

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for future posts!  I have about half of the material ready for the next entry in my color transfer series. Have a safe Halloween!

Movie of the Week: Swanee River (1939)

Film biographies are often problematic to produce. Within the confines of 90 minutes or more, they must cover a time span of many years of some person’s life. It is often pragmatic to condense events and personalties to meet the time contraints but at the same time impart to the audience a flavoring of the life of the person of interest. This is done quite well at times. For example, Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) conveys very well the personality of George M. Cohan within a plot that is largely fictional. Other times the biography may eschew the historical fact in favor of colorful historical legend/tradition. Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) and Gentleman Jim (1942) exemplify this sort of biography. A similar breed of biographical film exists to pay homage to some character and his/her accomplishments and at the same time pay little attention to historical fact. Swanee River (1939) is an example of this particular category.

Swanee River purports to tell of the story of the American composter Stephen Foster (1826 – 1864). The film starts off with Foster (Don Ameche) visiting relatives down South. He finds himself extremely captivated by the music and songs he hears from the African-American slaves. With motivation from his girlfriend and later wife Jane (Andrea Leeds), Foster decides to start writing music with the flavoring of these African-American themes. He sells his first song, Oh, Susanna!, to the minstrel man E.P. Christy (Al Jolson) who proceeds to make a popular hit of the song. Foster prospers with his business relationship with Christy, but alcoholism and changing tastes in music brought about by the Civil War reverses Foster’s stream of fortune.

Swanee River suffers due to the poor development of the main characters. In particular, the characters suffer from a lack of depth. This is particularly acute with the characterization of Foster himself. Don Ameche is amiable enough as Foster, but Ameche’s characterization is frankly bland. Substract the alcoholism and self-loathing of the character and one would find that Ameche’s portrayal of Foster is identical to his portrayal of the title character in The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (1939). I do not fault Ameche at all for this bland characterization. He was a talented actor (take a look at Heaven Can Wait (1943) for proof of Ameche’s skills), but he was ultimately at the mercy of the script writers. Taking that under consideration, Ameche probably did the best he could with the limited material. Andrea Leeds suffers likewise, but she too does well with her limited material. She also looks very beautiful throughout the film. Al Jolson plays E. P. Christy as a very broad caricature of an amiable man with a huge ego (which means that Jolson is essentially playing himself). Jolson was allowed to be quite bombastic thoughout the movie, and I would not be surprised if this may have been a welcomed change for Jolson since he had to tone himself down some in his previous movies. Felix Bressart is hardly allowed to make any impression in the movie – a pity considering his fine character work in other films of the period such as Ninotchka (1939) and The Shop Around the Corner (1940).

The film’s saving grace is the presentation of Foster’s music. In fact, I would not have minded an expansion of the film’s running time (which is 86 minutes) to allow for the inclusion of additional musical performances by Jolson and company. Jolson was in beautiful voice in this movie, and he had the opportunity to sing three songs – Oh, Susanna!, Camptown Races, and Swanee River. One laments that he was not allowed to sing additional songs. In particular, Beautiful Dreamer was not performed fully in the movie aside from background scoring and momentary piano playing from Ameche. It would have been nice to have Jolson sing that song in addition to a few other Foster songs. Such exclusions are regrettable. Ameche has the chance to sing some in the movie, and he performs well. The Hall Johnson Choir also makes a welcome addition to the film. The background scoring is lush and well-played. An isolated score would have been most welcomed on the DVD. As prolific as Stephen Foster was in his lifetime, it is actually surprising how little of his work is represented in the movie. Only a little over half a dozen or so songs are included. Again, a longer running time would have been justified to accomodate additional music.

The Techinicolor photography is quite praiseworthy. The colors are bright but never gaudy. A few scenes also make interested use of shadows.

The recently-released DVD of Swanee River is serviceable if a bit pricy. The transfer is adequate, but it does appear to be an older transfer (to my eyes at least – I do not pretend to be a technological authority). A newer HD scan from the same elements would have been appreciated (a blu-ray would have been even nicer – but I won’t press my luck here). No extras are included. Being a huge Jolson fan, the DVD was a must-buy even though the $19.99 retail price was high considering the lack of extras and the older film transfer. Still, there are far worse ways you could spend a twenty dollar bill.

The cover of the DVD. Small gripe: why isn’t Jolson named on the front cover?

Swanee River is not a masterpiece, but it is not a bad film at all either. I would simply rate it as being good. The cast performs well in spite of the limited script constraints, and the music is well performed. Modern viewers should be aware of the film’s stereotypical and outdated depictions of African-Americans as well as the minstrel show sequences. With all of that said, the film does come recommended.

Final rating:

Without the consideration of music: 2.5/4

With the music considered: 3/4

Please enjoy these additional screen captures from the movie. Thanks for reading!

The Lovely Ladies of the Silents and Early Talkies in Color!

This post is intended to be the first of hopefully several posts to pay tribute to the many talented performers of classic movies. Today, we are focusing upon some of the ladies of the silents and early talkies. So let us now drop this introductory chatter and start our colorful journey.

It is fitting that the first of the profiled ladies be America’s Sweetheart, Mary Pickford. Pickford endeared herself to film audiences through her portrayal of spunky youths. For two decades spanning from her time working under director D.W. Griffith at Biograph to being her own boss at United Artists, Pickford was one of the leading actresses of the screen. Her signature movies include The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917), Tess of the Storm Country (1922), Sparrows (1926), and My Best Girl (1927). Seen here is a piece of sheet music featuring Pickford from 1914: Sweetheart of Mine – The Official Mary Pickford Song.

Another prominent actress from the silent era was Gloria Swanson. She entered into the film industry in 1914 at Essanay films (she may be briefly seen as an extra in Charlie Chaplin’s 1915 Essanay short His New Job). Two years later, Swanson had migrated to California and was now working for Mack Sennett at Keystone. By the end of the decade, she was playing lead roles at Paramount under director Cecil B. DeMille in such films like Male and Female (1919). Throughout the 1920s, Swanson was one of the industry’s most popular and versatile actresses. Some of her signature films include Manhandled (1924), Stage Struck (1925), Sadie Thompson (1928), and Queen Kelly (1929).  Here she is seen with Eugene O’Brien in her penultimate film for Paramount, Fine Manners (1926).

Norma Shearer was popularly considered to be the reigning queen over at MGM during the 1920s and 1930s. Considering her fierce competition from the likes of Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo, this may not be an idle claim. She was certainly one of the most popular film actresses of the period, and her fanbase endears to this current day. She also had one of the smoothest transitions to talking pictures. Some of her signature movies include He Who Gets Slapped (1924), The Student Prince at Old Heidelberg (1927), The Divorcee (1930), and Marie Antoinette (1938). Seen here is a still from her 1926 feature The Waning Sex. This film is sadly considered to be lost.

While MGM could boast of Norma Shearer amongst others in the 1920s, Paramount could counter very well with their contract players such as Bebe Daniels. Daniels had an early start in films. She had her first starring role in a film at the age of seven and had even played the role of Dorothy Gale in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910). From 1915 to 1919, Daniels played the leading lady in Harold Lloyd’s comedy shorts. Accepting an offer in 1919 from Cecil B. DeMille at Paramount, Daniels started making feature films. She made a successful transition to sound due in part to her singing abilities. Some of her signature films include Captain Kidd’s Kids (1919), Male and Female (1919), Monsieur Beaucaire (1924), Feel My Pulse (1928), Rio Rita (1929), and 42nd Street (1933).  Seen here is a portrait of Bebe Daniels taken around 1925.

Now, here are six lovely ladies that you would want to meet while strolling through the park one day. Our last image for today is this still showing six of the most popular actresses of 1929 in the “Whatever Happened to the Floradora Boys” segment from Warner Brothers’ film revue The Show of Shows. From left to right, we have Marian Nixon, Sally O’Neil, Myrna Loy, Patsy Ruth Miller, Lila Lee, and Alice Day. To give some perspective, it had only been about thirty years since the time of the Floradora Girls when this gentle ribbing was produced. This may be analogous to six actresses of today ribbing the likes of Madonna and Pat Benatar!

Oh tell me, pretty maiden, are there any more at home like you?

Future installments in this series will pay tribute to other performers of this period. For next week, we are hoping to post two entries. One will be a tribute to several long-running movie series, and the other will be a minor post to mark Halloween (hopefully your blogmaster will find the time when he is not hiding in the bushes in order to spray his visiting trick-or-treaters with his water hose). Also, we will be launching a movie of the week feature within the next few days. I thank you for looking and hope that you will soon return!

Introduction to Film Classics in Color

Welcome to my blog! I thank you for taking the time to give my blog a view! When one starts a blog (and this happens to be my first by the way), a question may come to mind: what purpose or purposes will the proposed blog serve? Considering this question, I found that I have three reasons for starting a blog (this may be debatable though since some of the reasons may overlap with one another).

W.C. Fields is quite leary about this blogging business.

First, I intend to post reviews and critiques of classic movies, DVD/Blu-ray releases, books, etc. Sometimes, these reviews may be quite short. Other times, they may be confused for a dissertation.

Edward Everett Horton and Laura La Plante having a contentious discussion about my blog in “Poker Faces” (1926)

Second, I intend to use this blog to host tributes to actors/actresses and movies that I happen to enjoy. These tributes may be triggered by birthday celebrations, various anniversaries, television airings, or simply because I feel like doing so at that particular point in time.

Clara Bow and Stu Erwin are divided over the usefulness of this blog as well.

Third, I hope to use this blog as a place to share various items of my small film memorabilia collection. My collection consists of original stills, lobby cards, sheet music, heralds and theatre programs. Many of the stills that I will be presenting on this blog will be seen in colorized editions. Unless otherwise noted, these color transfers were done by yours truly with scans of stills from my collection.

William Powell and Myrna Loy listening to Asta’s concerns about my blog.

Now, at the moment that the term “colorization” was invoked, you may have started thinking of the hazy colorizations that Ted Turner produced of such films like “Captain Blood” and “Casablanca” in the 1980s or the more recent colorizations that are being marketed by Legend Films. Personally, I am opposed to colorizing movies. These movies were clearly intended to be presented in black and white. Now, the movie stills on the other hand constitute another matter. There is a healthy precedent of colorizing these stills that extend back to the golden age of Hollywood. These stills were colorized for the lobby cards, posters, heralds, sheet music, and fan magazines. Hence, I personally view my color transfers to be a continuation of these old traditions. I also consider these colorizations as a unique opportunity to remember a world that we largely think of as only being in black and white.

Buster Keaton and Thelma Todd making a toast to Film Classics in Color!

There is a companion page at Facebook that I have also created: Film Classics in Color. All of the color transfers posted here will also be available for viewing at the companion Facebook page. If you have a Facebook account, feel free to like Film Classics in Color. Also, if you see an image here that you wish to share on your own website or blog, feel free to do so but I do ask that you credit this blog.

Marceline Day has decided to be the cheerleader for Film Classics in Color!

That is all for today. Thanks for reading. I hope you come back regularly!