Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Bombardier (1943)

Note: This post on Randolph Scott's WWWII film BOMBARDIER (1943) is part of this weekend's blogathon celebrating the birthday of everyone's favorite Western hero, Randolph Scott. The blogathon is being hosted by Toby of 50 Westerns From the 50s; please visit his site here for lots of great links! My other blogathon post is on Scott's lesser-known Western SUGARFOOT (1951).

BOMBARDIER is a patriotic World War II film which was released by RKO in May 1943.

The film, which begins prior to the U.S. entry into the war, is initially set at a New Mexico flight school owned by Burton Hughes (Anne Shirley) which has been converted to train bombardiers. Major Chick Davis (Pat O'Brien) and Captain Buck Oliver (Randolph Scott) work to train a group of recruits, including young men played by Robert Ryan, Eddie Albert, Walter Reed, and Richard Martin.

Davis and Oliver are both interested in the lovely Miss Hughes, but she falls for Jim Carter (Reed).

After Pearl Harbor the men go to combat in the Pacific, and many of them won't come back.

BOMBARDIER is almost two movies in one, part dry docudrama and part brutal combat film. In the first half of the film there is debate over the relative merits of dive bombing to drop bombs at close range versus bombing from 20,000 feet, and there's extensive time depicting the arduous training process in order to make the grade as a bombardier.

The tenor of the film begins to change with a training accident in which the oxygen is accidentally cut off to pilot Oliver (Scott), resulting in the horrific death of one of the young men on the plane.

Then one Sunday morning Robert Ryan's character rushes into church to say that the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor, and in short order the men are off to the Pacific to put their training to work.

The war section of the film is very dark, with many of the characters the audience has come to know shot down or captured in enemy territory. As with some other films from the early years of the war, when victory was uncertain -- including MANILA CALLING (1942), which I recently reviewed for ClassicFlix -- the film attempts to inspire viewers by depicting a cruel enemy and the "never say die" American spirit.

I found the movie as a whole uneven; I like docudramas but this one started out on the dull side, then tipped a little too far in the other direction, with a series of fairly shocking scenes. Talk about a movie with a schizophrenic personality!

That said, Randolph Scott's character is key to the movie's ultimate impact; while his character is initially not very deeply sketched, he is part of the film's two most significant action sequences. While I'll hold back the details, viewers won't forget his heroic actions in the face of certain death, and thus Scott and the film provided a memorable contribution to Hollywood's wartime morale-boosting efforts.

Those who love Scott's later Westerns will be interested to note that his main romantic competition in BOMBARDIER comes from Walter Reed, who would play Gail Russell's husband in the classic Scott Western SEVEN MEN FROM NOW (1956) over a dozen years later.

Western fans will also take interest in the very first appearance on film of Chito Rafferty, Tim Holt's genial girl-chasing sidekick from so many postwar Westerns. It's a bit mind-blowing watching the Chito persona in modern dress as a WWII bombardier! He's still girl crazy, though he's got his eye on just one girl, played by lovely WWII pinup Margie Stewart.

It's also worth noting that cast members Robert Ryan and Eddie Albert would shortly disappear from the screen for years of WWII service.

This 99-minute film was directed by Richard Wallace, with aerial sequences directed by the uncredited Lambert Hillyer. It was filmed by Nicholas Musuraca and the uncredited Joseph Biroc. The editor was future Oscar-winning director Robert Wise.

BOMBARDIER was released on VHS in the RKO Collection and is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Sugarfoot (1951)

Note: This post on the Randolph Scott Western SUGARFOOT (1951) is part of this weekend's blogathon celebrating the birthday of everyone's favorite Western hero, Randolph Scott. The blogathon is being hosted by Toby of 50 Westerns From the 50s; please visit his site here for lots of great links!

SUGARFOOT (1951) is a Randolph Scott Western released by Warner Bros. The movie, which has nothing to do with the 1957 Warner Bros. TV Western starring Will Hutchins, has been much harder for Scott fans to see than his other Westerns, and it's to be hoped that it will appear on DVD at some point in the future. It's not one of Scott's very best Westerns, but it's still plenty entertaining.

Scott plays Jackson Redan, a Southerner who goes West after the Civil War. He's soon nicknamed "Sugarfoot" due to his courtly manners and his status as a tenderfoot who has much to learn about the West.

Sugarfoot learns a great deal -- including how to properly wear a gun belt for a duel -- from dependable Fly-Up-the-Creek Jones (Arthur Hunnicutt). He'll need that wisdom as from the time he arrives in Arizona he knocks heads with Jacob Stint (Raymond Massey). Stint robs Sugarfoot and tries to injure or kill him multiple times, and most importantly the two men tangle over lovely Reva (Adele Jergens), singer at The Diana saloon.

SUGARFOOT starts out rather slowly, setting up Jackson Redan's relationships with various characters, who also include S.Z. Sakall (as the improbably named Don Miguel), Robert Warwick, Hugh Sanders, Hope Landin, and Hank Worden (in a nice role as "Johnny-Behind-the-Stove"). Hunnicutt's excellent sidekick and Jergens' initially icy singer help perk things up considerably, and the film picks up speed as it goes.

Other than the fact that his character has to learn a certain amount "on the job," so to speak, it's your typical Scott role: a courtly man who may face tough odds at times, but his intelligence, resourcefulness, and integrity pull him through, with his loyal friends by his side. Of course, "typical Scott" is a very good thing, and he is as enjoyable as always.

The courtship with Reva is particularly well done, with Reva not a stock character but a woman who wants to pull her own financial weight in the life she and Sugarfoot begin to plan together.

Reva also threatens to kill one of Sugarfoot's enemies if Sugarfoot doesn't return safely from a trip, and when Sugarfoot questions her she makes clear she's as genuinely tough about protecting him as he would be about her. Scott's amazed grin as he turns away from her at the end of their conversation is delightful. This is one fiery woman!  I would have enjoyed it if the movie had run a few minutes longer and devoted even more time to developing their romantic relationship.

Laura Wagner wrote about Adele Jergens for Films of the Golden Age, and here's more by Alan K. Rode of the Film Noir Foundation.

SUGARFOOT was directed by frequent Scott collaborator Edward L. Marin and shot in Technicolor by Wilfred M. Cline. The film is nicely scored by Max Steiner.

The script by Russell Hughes based on a novel by Clarence Budington Kelland. The film runs 80 minutes.

Sincere thanks to my fellow Westerns fan Jerry Entract for making it possible for me to see this hard-to-find film.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Today at Disneyland: Snow Queens: Art of Ice

There was beautiful weather for today's trip to the Disneyland Resort.

First off, a visit to California Adventure, where the Condor Flats Airfield is being rethemed; it's now going to be part of the Grizzly Peak area.


I'm not quite sure what to make of this advertisement for the new FROZEN activities which are located in Hollywood Land. This sign, situated in the area recently occupied by the park's Christmas tree, looks a bit like a popsicle, with a big white stick in front:


After breakfast and some rides it was time to head over to Disneyland for the new exhibit "Snow Queens: Art of Ice."


The exhibit combines design ideas for FROZEN (2013) with older art by legendary Disney Imagineer Marc Davis for The Enchanted Snow Palace, a boat ride inspired by THE SNOW QUEEN.   The Enchanted Snow Palace was planned for Florida's Magic Kingdom in the '70s; alas, it was never built.


Some of the FROZEN art:





The Enchanted Snow Palace by Marc Davis:





A couple of years ago Jim Hill Media posted an article with more information on the abandoned project.

I love to collect Disney theme park mugs and was happy this week to learn about a brand-new line of "You Are Here" Starbucks mugs sold at the two parks. I came home with both of them!


A cast member told me they are selling very quickly, and indeed, I saw the shelves being restocked in both parks while I was shopping.


As lovely as the day was, I'm glad to see there's some possible rain in next week's forecast; California needs it!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Flame of the Islands (1956)

FLAME OF THE ISLANDS (1956) is one of those oddball movies which may not be very good, but it's an awful lot of fun.

FLAME OF THE ISLANDS is a meandering mash-up of soap opera and crime film, awkwardly acted, filmed in glorious Trucolor on location in the Bahamas. I had a good time watching it, even though at times I couldn't help shaking my head at the latest strangely staged plot twist. One suspects that some of the cast may have signed up for this Republic film just for a vacation in the Bahamas! And who could blame them?

Yvonne DeCarlo plays Rosalind Dee, who receives the unexpected gift of $100,000 from Evelyn Hammond (Frieda Inescort), who erroneously believes Rosalind was her recently deceased husband's mistress. (No, that doesn't make much sense.) Rosalind and her pal Wade (an underused Zachary Scott) take a trip to the Bahamas, where they invest in a resort with Cyril Mace (Kurt Kasznar). Little do they know that Cyril also has a bunch of mobsters as partners off the books!

One day Doug Duryea comes back into Rosalind's life; Doug is played by Howard Duff, DeCarlo's costar from CALAMITY JANE AND SAM BASS (1949). It transpires that Rosalind's real name is Linda Darcy, and when she was 15 Doug fathered her stillborn child. Doug doesn't even recognize Linda at first (!) but soon they are engaged, to the distress of his mother Charmaine (Barbara O'Neil). Charmaine, you see, doesn't want Doug to marry -- because she wants her son to herself!

And by the way, it was actually Charmaine who was the mistress of Evelyn's husband. Evelyn, as it happens, is Doug's godmother, and when she coincidentally shows up in the Bahamas she can't wait to tell Doug what an awful person his new/old love is, not knowing it was Doug's mother who had the affair with her husband. What a tangled web we weave.

But wait, there's more! (I think this review may set a record for exclamation marks.) There's this tall, handsome preacher fellow (James Arness), a really good guy who teaches Rosalind deep sea fishing, bucks up her spirits when Doug waffles on their relationship, and rescues her from the mobsters.

All this, and Christmas too...some of the movie's Christmas decor is eye-popping.

Where will it all end? I did not see the romantic resolution coming and burst out laughing, but I turned off the TV satisfied, even while chuckling "Well, okay then!" I think I'll enjoy the craziness even more a second time, when I know where it all ends up.

Yvonne gives the part her all, including a couple of musical numbers, but everyone else seems to wander onto the set from their Bahamas vacations from time to time and not really know much of what's going on. The acting seems to fall into two categories: distant and uninvolved (Duff and Scott), or overly melodramatic (O'Neil and Kasznar). One wonders why they even paid Scott, as he's just around the edges of the film with little to do. Duff has been much more appealing in other films; here he's a lovestruck mama's boy.

Arness comes off pretty well, playing one of the only really nice characters in the film, although I wondered for much of the movie why he was even part of the story. That becomes more apparent in the last third of the film.

The movie's brightly hued Trucolor look is one of its virtues, with lots of reds, greens, and blues. It's a bit garish but fun to look at, especially in the Christmas scenes.  I also enjoyed the '50s decor, including the big TV set in Rosalind's bungalow.

It was filmed by Bud Thackery and directed by Edward Ludwig.

The opening credits were nicely scored, and it was a fun surprise to find that Nelson Riddle was the film's composer.

Adele Comandini, who wrote the story which was the basis for the Bruce Manning screenplay, has some interesting credits in her background, including Deanna Durbin's THREE SMART GIRLS (1946), the Christmas films BEYOND TOMORROW (1940) and CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1945), the very good crime drama DANGER SIGNAL (1945), which also starred Zachary Scott, and the delightful Evelyn Keyes-Glenn Ford romantic comedy THE MATING OF MILLIE (1948).

Screenwriter Bruce Manning had himself worked on several Deanna Durbin films, including THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP (1939), FIRST LOVE (1939), and SPRING PARADE (1940), and at the time of this film he had recently written the screenplay for Republic's filming of the Gwen Bristow novel JUBILEE TRAIL (1954).

This film doesn't measure up to the writers' best work, and I suppose one might say it's for fans of the cast only, yet any film fan with an appreciation for absurdity will probably end up enjoying this movie if approached in the right spirit. For me it fell in the "some of this is so bad it's good" category, and I'd definitely watch it again.

FLAME OF THE ISLANDS can be streamed on Amazon Instant Video.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Sound of Music (1965) to Open 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival

Turner Classic Movies made a major announcement today: The 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival will open with a 50th Anniversary screening of THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965).

Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer will both be in attendance for the March 26th gala screening, almost 50 years to the day since the film premiered on March 29, 1965.

The Opening Night screening is only open to attendees with Spotlight and Essential Passes, so I do not expect to be in the Chinese Theatre for the showing, but I couldn't be more thrilled by the selection -- and I am hopeful of seeing the cast members beforehand! Although it was not announced, I would expect that at least some of the Von Trapp "children" will be in attendance.

The movie will also be shown nationwide on April 19 and 22, 2015. Over 500 theaters will show the film.

I was very fortunate to see a gorgeous 70mm screening of the film at the Egyptian Theatre in 2012, which was such a treat! As I wrote then, "If you've not seen this film on a giant screen, in some sense you've never seen it."

The press release also included information about the 50th Anniversary Blu-ray set, a five-disc extravaganza with over 13 hours of bonus content, including a new documentary with Julie Andrews.

I have written in the past about how special this film is to me, and I'll admit to already owning my favorite film in several (ahem) different versions, but this is a movie I will happily re-purchase to enjoy all the new material.

Several books will also be released this year, including a 50th Anniversary Edition of Lawrence Mason's 2007 book THE SOUND OF MUSIC COMPANION; THE SOUND OF MUSIC FAQ by Barry Monush, author of a good book on WEST SIDE STORY which I reviewed in 2010; THE SOUND OF MUSIC STORY by Tom Santopietro, author of the excellent CONSIDERING DORIS DAY; and THE SOUND OF MUSIC by Cary Flinn in the BFI Film Classics series.

The TCM Classic Film Festival is just two months away -- watch this space for more news as it's announced!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Miscellaneous bits of news and fun stuff from around the internet...

...Attention Westerns fans: This 10-film Western set is currently a fantastic deal at Amazon, just 50 cents a movie at the time of posting. Some of the titles in this set sell separately at $20 or so apiece. The prints are beautiful. I've seen a majority of films in the set and while there's one dud (WHEN THE DALTONS RODE), there are so many good films in the set it's really a "must buy." Enjoy!

...Here's Lara on the opening night of Noir City San Francisco at Backlots. The first night's screenings were WOMAN ON THE RUN (1950) and BORN TO BE BAD (1950).

...I really enjoyed Kendahl's new article for ClassicFlix, "Ladies in Exotic Exile." It's all about pre-Codes with ladies stranded in jungles, on islands, and the like, including SAFE IN HELL (1931), RED DUST (1932), and MANDALAY (1934).

...I was delighted that Cliff has written about PERSONS IN HIDING (1939) at Immortal Ephemera. I reviewed it last summer and considered it one of the top couple dozen new discoveries I saw in 2014. While the film fits in with the '30s gangster cycle, Patricia Morison's fresh, edgy performance seemed ahead of its time; this is a movie which would make a great double bill with GUN CRAZY (1950). I would love to see a restored copy shown at a Noir City Film Festival. As a side note, critic Lou Lumenick said on Twitter he's lobbied TCM to show PERSONS IN HIDING and the three other "J. Edgar Hoover" films released by Paramount, including PAROLE FIXER (1940), reviewed here last week.

...There were 10 million new Amazon Prime subscribers during the holiday shopping season.

...My recent review of KISS ME DEADLY (1955) was the source of some good discussion both here and on Twitter. I've been interested to learn I'm not the only one who was disappointed in the film. Kristina just took the film apart at Speakeasy as part of the Contrary to Popular Opinion blogathon, hosted by Sister Celluloid and Movies Silently.

...Be sure to check out the many other interesting Contrary to Popular Opinion blogathon links; I especially enjoyed Silver Screenings' take on THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1946), as I found it rather a disappointment myself, and I was also interested to learn that Caftan Woman doesn't care for CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1945). I wish I'd had time to participate in this blogathon as it was a great idea.

...More from Kristina at Speakeasy: A Helen Gilbert photo gallery and a review of Gilbert's ISLE OF MISSING MEN (1942), which sounds like a lot of fun.

...I really enjoyed Marc Myers' interview with singer-actress Peggy King at JazzWax. Here is Part 1 and here's Part 2. Loved the information on her time at MGM! I first knew King from the MAVERICK episode "The Strange Journey of Jenny Hill" (1959).

...Classic Reel Girl joins the fun with her list of 10 films to see in 2015.

...There's been concern about the future of the classic "Googie" style Norm's Restaurant building on La Cienaga, but for now it appears all is well. Norms was just declared a Historic Cultural Landmark.

...I came across a review of a book which sounds interesting for anyone who loves American history: THE HIDDEN WHITE HOUSE: HARRY TRUMAN AND THE RECONSTRUCTION OF AMERICA'S MOST FAMOUS RESIDENCE by Robert Klara.

...Here's Jake Hinkson at Bright Lights Film Journal on the career of actor-director Norman Foster, whose work encompassed the Peter Lorre Mr. Moto series, Disney's DAVY CROCKETT, and film noir. Foster's WOMAN ON THE RUN (1950), also mentioned near the top of this post, was recently restored by the Film Noir Foundation; I hope to see it at this year's Noir City Film Festival in Hollywood.

...Here's a free online film history course coming next month from Wesleyan University: "The Language of Hollywood: Storytelling, Sound, and Color." Visit the link for the course description and details on how to sign up.

...There are more interesting titles coming to DVD from Olive Films this spring; Toby describes two of the films, THE QUIET GUN (1956) and STRANGER AT MY DOOR (1956), at 50 Westerns From the 50s.

...Raquel just reviewed ON BORROWED TIME (1939), a Lionel Barrymore film I've never seen, at Out of the Past. It sounds really different.

...I plan to attend the special screening of LIBELED LADY (1936) hosted by the Black Maria website at the Silent Movie Theatre on January 30th. I appreciate the invitation, and I'll be reporting on the evening here!

Have a great week!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tonight's Movie: The Buccaneer (1938) at UCLA

Tonight was my first evening attending the current Cecil B. DeMille series at UCLA's Billy Wilder Theater. It was a seafaring double bill consisting of 35mm screenings of THE BUCCANEER (1938) and REAP THE WILD WIND (1942).

With the films running 126 and 124 minutes, respectively, plus a short, I might admit to zoning out a bit by the time we finally got to the battle with the giant squid at the end of REAP THE WILD WIND, but it was a fun evening!

Starting with the last film first, I reviewed REAP THE WILD WIND back in 2009. The unrestored print in UCLA's library was a bit rough at reel changes but for the most part looked very nice. It was a treat to see four favorite actors -- Ray Milland, John Wayne, Paulette Goddard, and Susan Hayward -- in Technicolor on a big screen. As described in my original review, it's not a perfect film, but it's entertaining enough to revisit every few years.

Backing up to the start of the evening, first off was a screening of GRETCHEN COMES ACROSS (1938), an interesting promotional short in which Cecil B. DeMille introduced Hungarian actress Franciska Gaal to audiences. The print was in great shape and was hokey fun, with DeMille barking orders right and left; I enjoyed seeing how the studio marketed a new actress. One does wonder why DeMille saw a Hungarian-accented actress as perfect casting for a "little Dutch girl" but such was Hollywood!

THE BUCCANEER was a wonderful print. Fredric March stars as pirate Jean Lafitte, who forms an alliance with Andrew Jackson (Hugh Sothern) during the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812.

Lafitte and the patrician Annette (Margot Grahame) are in love, and she will marry him if he can find a way to become "respectable." A pardon for helping the Americans might be the answer. Meanwhile a young Dutch girl, Gretchen (Gaal), who was rescued by Lafitte at sea, pines for her pirate "boss."

The film starts with a beautiful title sequence followed by a brief prelude in which a delightful Spring Byington plays Dolly Madison escaping from the White House with Washington's portrait. It's Byington's only sequence but she makes the most of it. This sequence also introduces Senator Crawford (Ian Keith), a traitor. The action then shifts to New Orleans for the remainder of the film.

The movie falls in the "entertaining but not great" category; it was pleasant viewing even though I had quibbles with things here and there. My main complaint was the resolution of the film itself, in which Lafitte does not explain that he had nothing to do with an atrocity which resulted in the death of Annette's sister (Louise Campbell); indeed, he killed the rogue from his crew who was responsible and also saved Gretchen's life. I didn't really understand the motivation behind his taking responsibility.

I have a soft spot for March, although he was not always an actor of subtlety, and he gives a very theatrical performance as Lafitte, complete with French accent. I never bought for a moment that he was Lafitte, but I rather enjoyed him in a "This is Fredric March having fun pretending to be Jean Lafitte" kind of way.

I wasn't particularly impressed with Gaal, who as Gretchen is more comic relief than leading lady; it might be described as a Sonja Henie kind of role, sort of a young imp, but it's a forced performance, without Henie's charm. Gaal only made two more films in the U.S.

Incidentally, when I got home and researched it I learned that I had guessed correctly that Gretchen's dog "Landlubber" was "Toto" from THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939); Toto went by Terry off the silver screen.

The film's real leading lady was Margot Grahame, previously seen by me in the "B" films NIGHT WAITRESS (1936) and TWO IN THE DARK (1936). She was exquisitely lovely and moving, and I really enjoyed the chance to see her in a leading role in an "A" costume picture.

Hugh Sothern does a nice job as peppery Andrew Jackson, and Walter Brennan turns up late in the film as Jackson's righthand man. Evelyn Keyes can be spotted at a dance in the latter part of the film, which was a nice surprise; it was Keyes' very first screen role. Other actresses I didn't recognize onscreen who are said to have bit roles in the film are Ellen Drew, Virginia Vale, and Lorna Gray (also known as Adrian Booth).

An interesting postscript is that DeMille's son-in-law, Anthony Quinn, who plays one of Lafitte's pirate crew here, would direct a remake two decades later, starring Yul Brynner, Charles Boyer, and Charlton Heston.

The cast also includes Akim Tamiroff, Douglass Dumbrille, Beulah Bondi, Robert Barrat, Fred Kohler, Montagu Love, and Jack Pennick.

As a side note, the reel where the pirates go into battle against the British seemed to have a green tint; I wasn't sure if the reel was tinted, the better to see the night action, or that particular reel had a flaw. I found a comment at IMDb which mentions the reel turning sepia so apparently the colored look was deliberate, although I thought it more green than brown.

The film was shot by Victor Milner and nicely scored by George Antheil.

Previous DeMille films seen on a big screen: CLEOPATRA (1934), THE CRUSADES (1935), and THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956).

Tonight's Movies: Just For You (1952) and Here Comes the Groom (1951) - A Warner Archive DVD Set Review

The Warner Archive recently released a "double feature" set with a pair of good films starring Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman, HERE COMES THE GROOM (1951) and JUST FOR YOU (1952).

The films were originally released exactly a year apart, with HERE COMES THE GROOM hitting theaters in September 1951 and JUST FOR YOU following in September 1952.

HERE COMES THE GROOM is a black and white film directed by the great Frank Capra, while JUST FOR YOU is a Technicolor film directed by Elliott Nugent. Since I watched the films back to back and they share the same lead actors, I thought I'd break from the norm and discuss these films in a joint review.

I'll start with JUST FOR YOU, which I'd not seen since I was quite young. This bright, colorful film is my favorite of the two movies; it has a wonderful cast, a pleasant Warren-Robin score which includes the Oscar-nominated "Zing a Little Zong," and some gorgeous location shooting at Lake Arrowhead, California. (The movie was filmed by George Barnes.) All this plus fave Regis Toomey in a small role as Bing's butler makes for an enjoyable film.

Bing plays a widowed Broadway impresario who has neglected his children, played by Robert Arthur and Natalie Wood. Wyman is the star of Bing's new musical; he falls in love with her and she helps him reconnect with his children, which is complicated when Arthur fancies himself in love with her despite their age difference.

Meanwhile, young Wood wants to get into a girls' school run by Ethel Barrymore, but is concerned her father's show business background will scotch her admission to the high-class establishment.

Although I didn't remember most of the film, when the schoolgirls launched into their song on a picnic it was as though my childhood came rushing back to me. I suspect that scene made more of an impression on me since I was a child when I saw it. Ironically, that song has nothing to do with the film's main characters and could easily have been trimmed to reduce the film's slightly long-ish 104 minutes.

This is one of Wyman's most likeable performances as the cheery, confident musical star who wants the best for Bing and his kids. And she cuts an impressive figure in her costumes, too.

Bing has silver hair at his temples to play a mature fatherly type, who threw himself into work and attaining financial success after his wife's death. His character isn't such a bad guy, and when he realizes his children are growing up and having problems he gets to work reintegrating himself into their lives.

Barrymore gives a warm performance as the headmistress who enjoys verbal parrying with Bing. The cast also includes Herb Vigran, Art Smith, and Cora Witherspoon.

All in all this is quite a pleasant movie, which epitomizes the term "family entertainment."

I reviewed the second film in the set, HERE COMES THE GROOM, back in 2008 and enjoyed returning to it for a second look.

This time around Bing plays a footloose journalist who returns stateside from France with two war orphans (Beverly Washburn and Jacky Gencel) in tow...the only complication is Bing needs to marry within five days to keep the children he wants to adopt from being sent back to France.

He thinks his one-time flame, played by Wyman, is a great candidate to marry him and be the children's mother -- only problem being that she's about to marry her wealthy boss, played by Franchot Tone.

However, Tone has a distant relative, played by Alexis Smith, who is madly in love with him. Maybe Bing and Alexis will be able to engineer things so the right couples end up together and the kids get to stay in their new home...

HERE COMES THE GROOM is the weaker of the two films, attempting to cover way too much ground in a meandering 113 minutes; the movie even takes time out for specialty numbers featuring the likes of Louis Armstrong, Dorothy Lamour, Phil Harris, and Anna Maria Alberghetti. It's quite slow out of the starting gate, with Wyman not appearing onscreen until around the half hour mark.

That said, there's still much in the film to like and it's definitely worth watching.

It's to the film and Crosby's credit that the movie manages to keep his previously commitment-shy character likeable. The film also has a very engaging secondary couple in Tone and Smith; Smith really shines as Crosby and his boss (the very funny Robert Keith) attempt to teach the gangly young woman how to charm Tone. Tone is wonderful in a non-cliched "other man" role, and frankly I feel as though Smith's character might have gotten the better deal of the two leading men!

One of the movie's high points is the Oscar-winning song "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," which was performed "live" during filming by Crosby and Wyman. Wyman has a pleasant singing voice, which is also heard in JUST FOR YOU, and their performance is great fun. The Mercer-Carmichael song, which became an American standard in short order, also serves a dramatic purpose in quickly showing the couple's comfortable rapport so that the audience will root for them to end up together.

The deep supporting cast includes Connie Gilchrist, Adeline DeWalt Reynolds, H.B. Warner, Ian Wolfe, James Barton, and Charles Lane.

The two films are on a single-sided Warner Archive disc. The prints are in great shape. There are no extras, but unlike most Warner Archive films, there are chapter selections and English subtitles.

All in all, this is a very nice release which will please the stars' many fans. This set is also a good choice for parents to share with their kids.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD set. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website. Please note that initial copies of this set sold at the Warner Archive site will be traditionally replicated (pressed).

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