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Byron Kolln RSS Feed (the corner where Broadway meets Hollywood)

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Party Girl
Party Girl
DVD ~ Robert Taylor
Price: $13.99
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4.0 out of 5 stars Cyd Charisse and Robert Taylor - in their final MGM film - light up the screen in "Party Girl", August 30, 2015
This review is from: Party Girl (DVD)
The "party" was almost over when Cyd Charisse and Robert Taylor teamed up for PARTY GIRL, a glossy crime drama directed by Nicholas Ray. By 1958, most of MGM's stable of stars had bought out their contracts, been terminated early by the studio or simply walked away. Charisse and Taylor had both opted to ride out their deferred contracts and PARTY GIRL was the last for both stars at MGM.

Loosely based on the true-life story of Mob lawyer Dixie Davis, PARTY GIRL stars Robert Taylor as Thomas Farrell, a defence lawyer employed by Chicago Mobster Rico Angelo (Lee J. Cobb). Crippled in one leg, Farrell manages to successfully garner sympathy for his criminal clients by exploiting his own physical weaknesses in front of the jury-stand. When he meets and falls in love with nightclub dancer Vicki Gaye (Charisse), however, Farrell determines to change his ways, and, despite the dangers threatened by Rico, realises he must turn against the Mob...

PARTY GIRL is entertaining, and glossy in the "classic" MGM tradition, although the dance numbers performed by Charisse and company feel more like the Fifties in Vegas rather than the Thirties in Chicago. Charisse's husband Tony Martin sings the movie's Theme Song over the opening titles. Director Nicholas Ray manages to inject some darkness into the material and brings out a particularly fine turn from Charisse, in a rare dramatic change of pace for the dancing star.

Star Dust
Star Dust
DVD ~ Linda Darnell
Price: $19.95
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4.0 out of 5 stars Linda Darnell trails "Star Dust" in her own Hollywood fairytale, August 22, 2015
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This review is from: Star Dust (DVD)
1940's STAR DUST stars Linda Darnell and is loosely based on her own rise to fame in Hollywood. When talent scout Thomas Brooke (Roland Young) first encounters Carolyn Sayres (Darnell) on one of his annual trips to recruit young performers, he is sure of her immense talents. But there is the little matter of her age. No longer suitable for "child" parts and not yet equipped for adult roles, Carolyn nevertheless finagles her way to Hollywood, where she is taken under-wing by Brooke and acting coach Lola Langdon (Charlotte Greenwood), who become her biggest champions. The road will be tough and the competition tougher, but Carolyn, trailing star-dust in her wake, won't have to wait long for her own Hollywood happy ending.

Linda Darnell is luminous is this enchanting film, which was indeed based on Darnell's own experience in Hollywood. Barely a teen when she first arrived at Twentieth Century-Fox, Linda initially found herself in that awkward "in-between" phase, but soon established herself as one of Hollywood's brightest young ingenues. In perfect time capsule fashion, STAR DUST captures a bygone Hollywood era, with glamorous premieres at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, slinky mink coats and spiralling klieg lights. In a sad footnote, Linda was actually watching STAR DUST on television on the night she died from horrific burns sustained in a house-fire, aged just 42.

Ms Darnell made many wonderful films in her short career, but STAR DUST stands apart with it's real-life connection to the star, and remains a cherished title for her fans.

Ice Follies of 1939
Ice Follies of 1939
DVD ~ Jimmy Stewart, Lew Ayres Joan Crawford
Price: $10.99
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Joan Crawford and Jimmy Stewart lace up their skates!, August 21, 2015
This review is from: Ice Follies of 1939 (DVD)
Certainly one of the oddest films in Joan Crawford's canon, ICE FOLLIES OF 1939 nevertheless offers her fans the rare chance to see her in glorious, blushing Technicolor, on ice skates, and in a platinum blonde wig! "Everyone was out of their collective minds", the star later remarked. But it's one helluva fun movie.

Trying to gain financial backing to produce his own ice-spectaculars, Larry Hall (James Stewart) finds himself playing second-fiddle to his new wife, Mary McKay (Crawford), when newly-christened as Sandra Lee, she makes a huge splash in Hollywood. Split up for extended periods, chasing their own dreams, Larry and Mary are almost certainly headed for divorce... until film producers decide to bring their talents together for the screen.

Co-starring Lew Ayres, ICE FOLLIES OF 1939 was primarily a showcase for Crawford, and an attempt by MGM to cash in on the hugely-popular Sonja Henie films from rival studio Twentieth Century-Fox. The "Cinderella" ice-show performed as the movie's finale was lensed in sumptuous Technicolor - an absolute event for Crawford's fans, who'd never before seen her in colour on the screen. Despite the lush ice surrounds and Technicolor trappings this is still "B" territory - even for MGM standards - and this had to have irritated Crawford to the point where she campaigned and successfully landed one of the lead roles in the studio's next glittering prestige film "The Women", shortly after filming had wrapped on ICE FOLLIES.

If you enjoy Crawford you'll adore her on skates in ICE FOLLIES OF 1939. The Warner Archive disc is bare-bones except for the standard trailer.

Looking For Love  (Remastered)
Looking For Love (Remastered)
DVD ~ Connie Francis
Price: $14.49
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4.0 out of 5 stars Connie Francis is looking for love... and utterly adorable!, August 19, 2015
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Pop singer Connie Francis' career in Hollywood was brief, lasting a few short years. But in that time she managed to shine in a small but delightful clutch of films which are beloved by her fans. 1964's LOOKING FOR LOVE may be the best of them, with Connie front and centre in a story that calls upon her skills as a comedienne in addition to her singing prowess.

When her attempts to launch a singing career fail, Libby Caruso (Francis) decides that the best solution is to get married and have babies. In the meantime she stumbles into an unexpected adventure in big business with "The Lady Valet", a clothes-hanging gadget for the gal on the go, which she invents. Whilst hawking her brainchild on the Johnny Carson Show, she finds that her singing career may still have a chance... but what about that future husband? Advertising exec Paul (Jim Hutton) is the ideal candidate... that is, if he can ever remember Libby's name!

With a bubbly plot and lots of opportunities for Connie to burst out into song, LOOKING FOR LOVE is really her best all-round movie showcase. Most of her other films cast her as "just one of the girls" (like "Where the Boys Are", "Follow the Boys"), but LOOKING FOR LOVE is a vehicle designed for Connie alone. And it's utterly adorable. In a sly nod to "Where the Boys Are", several of Connie's former co-stars flash by in cameo appearances, among them Paula Prentiss, Yvette Mimieux and George Hamilton. Plus you have to love a movie where one of the characters is called 'Gaye Swinger'!

The Warner Archive disc has a great quality 'Scope print, plus the trailer.

The Girl from Missouri
The Girl from Missouri
DVD ~ Jean Harlow
Price: $11.99
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4.0 out of 5 stars A sweeter Harlow sparkles in her first Code comedy, August 17, 2015
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This review is from: The Girl from Missouri (DVD)
THE GIRL FROM MISSOURI (1934) was Jean Harlow's first film to be made with the newly-enforced Production Code. It had actually been figures like Harlow and their antics on screen who had triggered the need for some sort of "code of decency" to be implemented in film. Many thought this handicap would ruin Harlow's career, but she wound up thriving, and her film image received a welcome facelift.

In GIRL FROM MISSOURI, Harlow is Eadie Chapman, a showgirl with limited dance ability, who is really just out to marry wealthy and retire to the idle life. But Eadie has her principles... she won't compromise herself to get where she wants to go. She'll do it instead with her considerable charm. After wealthy industrialist T.R. Paige (Lionel Barrymore) assists Eadie from getting caught up in a very messy situation at a swanky party, she follows him to his vacation home on the coast where she falls in love with T.R.'s son Tom Jr. (Franchot Tone). But Paige remains doubtful of Eadie's intentions and decides to break them up using drastic means...

Co-scripted by Harlow's close friend Anita Loos (who'd already penned "Red-Headed Woman" for the star, and would go on to write what would be Harlow's final film "Saratoga"), THE GIRL FROM MISSOURI zips along, providing Harlow with her trademark quips and innuendo, if ever so slightly camouflaged to appease the new Code standards. The film co-stars Patsy Kelly and Lewis Stone.

Two Girls On Broadway
Two Girls On Broadway
DVD ~ Lana Turner
Price: $10.99
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lana Turner dances to fame in one of her first star-making vehicles, August 16, 2015
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This review is from: Two Girls On Broadway (DVD)
A remake of the landmark MGM talkie "Broadway Melody of 1929", 1940's TWO GIRLS ON BROADWAY pairs up Lana Turner and Joan Blondell (in her first film for Metro) as the 'girls' of the title. This was the movie that finally established Lana Turner as one of the studio's hottest commodities. After supporting roles in several films, she'd been built up the year before in two well-received movies ("These Glamour Girls" and "Dancing Co-Ed"), but after the rapturous reception for TWO GIRLS, MGM realised that she had made that rare, almost seamless transition to leading lady.

The story revolves around two sisters, Molly (Blondell) and Pat Mahoney (Turner), who travel to New York from far-flung Nebraska when Molly's fiancee Eddie Kerns (George Murphy) lands a plum dancing job on Broadway, and arranges for Molly and her 'kid sister' to join the act. The 'kid' turns out to be fully grown and producers decide to dump Molly in lieu of her bombshell baby sister! For every success story, Broadway is littered with a million broken dreams, and it's not long until Pat not only dances away with Molly's career, but also with Eddie.

This sudsy back-stager is filled with wonderful dance numbers and sparkling performances. It's odd now to look back and see how MGM initially marketed Lana Turner as a dancing star (pretty soon she'd dump the dance shoes for straight-up comedy and dramatic roles), but she is quite marvellous partnering George Murphy in the elaborate production number "My Wonderful One, Let's Dance". No longer a "B" player, Turner's next film assignment would be her biggest to date - the role of alcoholic showgirl Sheila Regan in "Ziegfeld Girl".

The Warner Archive disc of TWO GIRLS ON BROADWAY has no extras aside from the obligatory trailer. Recommended for Lana fans.

DVD ~ Anne Baxter
Price: $12.48
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Anne Baxter bedevils Steve Forrest in chic Paree, August 6, 2015
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This review is from: Bedevilled (DVD)
Anne Baxter and Steve Forrest are upstaged by the location photography in BEDEVILLED, the first major American film to be shot in Paris after WW2. The story itself is pure melodrama - Gregory Fitzgerald (Forrest) has just arrived in Paris to commence his training for the priesthood when he stumbles into Monica Johnson (Baxter), an American nightclub singer who is visibly distressed. Greg is the perfect gentleman and soon uncovers Monica's plight - she is being chased by underworld heavies for her part in a murder.

The performances from the two stars are fine but they can't compete with the stunning location photography, including a wonderful scene staged at Napoleon's tomb in Les Invalides. Anne Baxter spends the bulk of the film in an outrageous, Helen Rose-designed tangerine dress with sheer Arabian-style robe. This was Forrest's first 'leading man' assignment and he does well, considering that he is saddled with some of the clunkiest dialogue in the script.

Print quality on this Warner Archive disc is very pleasing - the image is thick and has good colour, but the sound isn't the best. The only extra is the obligatory trailer. Recommended for Anne Baxter fans.

TCM Greatest Classic Films: Legends - Esther Williams Vol 2
TCM Greatest Classic Films: Legends - Esther Williams Vol 2
DVD ~ Various
Price: $14.85
13 used & new from $14.82

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More classic Esther Williams films for a bargain price, July 26, 2015
Four more classic Esther Williams titles find their way to the TCM Greatest Films Collection. Although these are reissues from larger Esther Williams sets, it's always good to see them being offered at lower price-points in these economy-minded collections.

First up Esther is paired with frequent leading man Van Johnson in 1945's THRILL OF A ROMANCE. This film was amongst the top 10 grossing films of that year, and it's easy to see why. Dumped on her honeymoon, Cynthia Delbar (Williams) despairs until she meets handsome soldier Johnson. Extra features include outtake musical numbers, short subject "The Great American Mug", cartoon "Wild and Woolfy", and the trailer.

FIESTA (1947) is one of Esther's more unusual films. Set in Spain amongst the world of the matadors, Esther is Maria, who secretly replaces her twin brother Mario (Ricardo Montalban) in the bullring when his dance ambitions grow stronger than their father's efforts to train him in the old family tradition. Cyd Charisse co-stars. Extra features include short subject "Goodbye Miss Turlock", cartoon "Hound Hunters", and the trailer.

PAGAN LOVE SONG (1950) is one of several films Esther made with Howard Keel. In this one she plays island beauty Mimi Bennett, ready to return home to the mainland, but she thinks twice once she meets Hazard Endicott (Keel), newly-arrived to take over his late uncle's plantation. The musical score includes the delightful "House of Singing Bamboo". Rita Moreno co-stars. Extra features include outtake musical numbers, Pete Smith Specialty short subject "Curious Contests", cartoon "The Chump Champ", and the trailer.

Finally in 1952's MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID, Esther has the perfect vehicle to combine her underwater prowess with a solid, dramatic story. Playing real-life champion Australian swimming star Annette Kellerman, Williams co-stars with Victor Mature. Extra features include audio of the "Lux Radio Theatre" presentation of the film starring Williams, cartoon "The Little Wise-Quacker" (with Tom & Jerry), Pete Smith Specialty short subject "Reducing", and the trailer.

DVD ~ Robert Taylor
Price: $12.99
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4.0 out of 5 stars Norma Shearer and Robert Taylor make their "Escape" in a terrifying wartime thriller, June 30, 2015
This review is from: Escape (DVD)
A crackling, sometimes utterly terrifying wartime drama, ESCAPE pairs Robert Taylor and Norma Shearer, and is based on the book by Ethel Vance. Taylor plays Mark Preysing, an American who has travelled to Germany to trace the whereabouts of his mother, the famed stage actress Emmy Ritter (Alla Nazimova). It seems that Emmy simply vanished after returning to her home country to finalise her late husband’s estate. However, Mark is to learn that Emmy is being held on treason charges in a concentration camp, and is due for execution within days.

With his pleas for help falling on unyielding ears, finally, a fellow American, the Countess Ruby von Treck (Shearer), herself now the kept mistress of a top-ranking Nazi official, agrees to assist Mark in a daring escape. With help from a sympathetic camp doctor (Philip Dorn), Mark negotiates a way to smuggle himself and his mother out of Germany, once and for all…

This film was one of MGM’s first all-out political films of the WW2 period – pre-dating America’s involvement in the war by over a year. It so incensed Hitler that he blocked the film from being shown in Germany, and later banned all other MGM films. It was a financial loss that the studio was happy to absorb.

ESCAPE marked the last great film in Norma Shearer’s career. She is marvellous in her role as the Countess, although she has little screen time in comparison to Robert Taylor, who carries the entire film on his shoulders. Bonita Granville (“Nancy Drew”) has an effective little role as one of the Countess’ young pupils. Conrad Veidt, Felix Bressart, Blanche Yurka and Edgar Barrier co-star.

Dream Wife
Dream Wife
DVD ~ Deborah Kerr, Walter Pidgeon, Steve Forrest Cary Grant
Price: $12.49
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4.0 out of 5 stars Deborah and Cary's first film pairing, June 30, 2015
This review is from: Dream Wife (DVD)
Four years before their legendary union in "An Affair to Remember", Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant were paired in Sidney Sheldon's battle-of-the-sexes comedy DREAM WIFE. The sparks fly when Clemson Reade (Grant) returns from the Middle East, where he met a beguiling young princess, with new opinions on what makes the 'perfect wife'. His long-time fiancee Priscilla 'Effie' Effington (Kerr) decides to indulge Clemson's fantasies, and brings the lovely Princess Tarji (Betta St. John) to America. At first things couldn't be better - Tarji is the perfect obedient young woman, demurring to Clem in every way. But then Effie decides that Tarji needs a few American-style lessons...

Reunited with Sheldon ("The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer"), Cary Grant again displays his comedic skills, and Deborah Kerr is lovely wearing an array of Helen Rose designer gowns. Betta St. John (imported from Broadway where she had made a big splash playing Liat in the original cast of "South Pacific") isn't patently 'Arabian' by any stretch of the imagination but fills her role delightfully.

This DVD of DREAM WIFE was one of the original titles offered through the Warner Archive manufacture-on-demand programme, and the quality isn't the best. The soundtrack volume fluctuates, and there is at least one portion of the film where the soundtrack goes noticeably out of synch. The film opens with the old Turner logo, so I imagine this is an older VHS master. I'm happy to say that the quality of the titles offered in the Warner Archive programme has improved in leaps and bounds since the programme started in 2009. Perhaps one day, Warner Archive may decide to go back and remaster this film (which they have done with select titles in the past).

This is probably the best we'll get, but in the meantime it doesn't really deter from the enjoyment of seeing Deborah and Cary in their first film together.

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