Based on a then-twenty-year-old novel, which somehow hasn’t been remade yet, but I suppose every movie about no-good men coming into money then turning into paranoid murderers is a remake in spirit. Damn good movie, but the true stories about the contested identity of the novel’s author are even better! John Huston’s fourth non-doc feature won oscars for himself and his dad, and his other movie that year won Claire Trevor an award.

A couple of downluck laborers overhear Walter Huston (just off playing “The Sinkiller” in Duel in the Sun) bragging about his prospectin’ skills, and they ask if he’d join them on an expedition. I didn’t know who was the bigger sucker, but it wasn’t the two Americans since Huston indeed had the knowledge and skills to find all the gold dust you please; it was jolly Huston for taking on these bozos as partners. I guess Tim Holt (prolific cowboy star, an Earp in My Darling Clementine) isn’t so bad. especially compared to his villainous partner Humphrey Bogart (what?) who becomes gold-crazed, tries to kill the others and finally gets murdered by banditos who lose all the gold dust to the wind (making The Killing another semi-remake).

We heard that someone, somewhere, was having a Jean Arthur marathon, so we decided to participate and found this. Jean’s neglectful husband Fred MacMurray is lost at sea and presumed dead, but returns to find she has a new neglectful husband, his business partner Melvyn Douglas, and Jean enjoys having two men fight over her. The guys try leaving it to chance, but Melvyn cheats – the movie is pretty much on Fred’s side from the start. I guess Wes Ruggles was popular in his time, since his photo appears on the movie poster. I was not a fan of the first thing I saw him direct – looks like his thing is to cast all my favorite actresses opposite Melvyn Douglas. Written by Somerset Maugham, the highest-paid author in the world, also featuring butler Melville Cooper, who had played the Sheriff of Nottingham vs. Errol Flynn a couple years earlier.

Katy found us a new Christmas movie. Aloysius McKeever (Victor Moore, star of Make Way for Tomorrow) is a squatter who lives in mega-rich Michael O’Connor’s summer house during the winter (and his winter house in the summer). He starts inviting other unfortunates to stay with him during a post-war housing shortage, leading to a More The Merrier situation where roommates Jim (Iowan Don DeFore, who somehow played a German later in a Douglas Sirk movie) and Trudy (Gale Storm of some Joseph Kane westerns) fall in love. Jim is blandly unmemorable, so fortunately there’s more going on – Trudy is the homeowner’s daughter pretending to be down on her luck, and she invites both divorced parents (Lubitsch actor Charles Ruggles and Ann Harding of Double Harness) to play along – I forget why they go along with it, but Ruggles eventually reveals himself to Jim, donating land to his housing-crisis alleviation project, after all the family togetherness somewhat unscrooges him. They never clue in McKeever, who heads merrily to another mansion in the new year.

Pretty straightforward biopic of Wonder Woman and lie detector inventor Marston, his wife and their live-in lover… a solidly-made film with good performances. Usually “solidly-made with good performances” isn’t much of a recommendation for me, but it’s also thrilling that something this deviant played in the months between Wonder Woman and Fifty Shades Freed at the Grand, where I’m always subjected to trailers for Dennis Quaid Christian dramas. Seems a bit slow/long at times, but it’s covering ideas as well as incidents, and allowing each one the breathing space to feel natural so the characters don’t come across as sexy weirdos. Luke Evans (the documentarian in High-Rise) and Rebecca Hall (Christine) are the Marstons and Bella Heathcote (an evil model in The Neon Demon) is his teaching assistant who gets invited into their marriage long-term, though they have to keep it quiet since this is the 1940’s. From the writer/director of D.E.B.S., which I’ve been mildly wanting to watch for over a decade now.

A rah-rah-war movie in which an apparent simpleton with amazing gun skills (Gary Cooper) falls for a pretty girl (Joan Leslie), wins a turkey shooting contest, gets screwed out of some land he wants to buy, gets hit by lightning, and is convinced by his pastor (Walter Brennan) to chill out on the drinking. Then the army comes calling, and tricks poor Gary into believing that the bible justifies killing for your country, so Gary goes off to war and captures a whole flock of enemy troops.

Not that we didn’t enjoy watching Cooper mow down Germans. It’s a well-paced movie full of fun characters, which makes up for Cooper, who is very bad at playing drunk and speaking with hick accents.

Playing Coop’s serious little brother, Dickie Moore’s child-actor career was winding down while Joan Leslie’s was just taking off. York’s barely-seen sister June Lockhart went on to be an anti-war activist, then appear in C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud. All three were the same age, less than half of Cooper’s.

Dickie:

Joan:

My second ghost story this month after Journey to the Shore, which also featured corporeal-looking ghosts with appearances signaled by lighting changes. Widowed Mrs. Muir (Gene Tierney at her cutest, also of ghost film Heaven Can Wait) gets a good deal on a haunted house. She soon runs into financial trouble, but rather than get rid of the housekeeper (Edna Best, the Doris Day of the original Man Who Knew Too Much), she teams up with house-ghost Captain Gregg (Rex Harrison, the My Fair Lady/Unfaithfully Yours lead shouter at his shoutiest) to ghostwrite his uncensored memoirs.

The living Mrs. Muir and dead Mr. Gregg learn to tolerate each other and gradually develop deeper feelings, but Gregg disappears after she starts dating a children’s author she meets at her publisher’s, creepy George Sanders (Ingrid’s husband in Voyage to Italy). When that doesn’t work out because he turns out to be married, she stays home staring at the sea for decades until death, when she’s reunited with her beloved captain (he could’ve come back sooner and kept her company, but it’s still a nice ending).

One of Joe Mank’s earliest movies, two years before A Letter to Three Wives. The story was expanded into a late-1960’s TV series with Laura Dern’s mom from Blue Velvet as the lead, and an Irishman from Caprice as the ghost.

The back half of our New Year’s Eve classic movie double-feature. It doesn’t have the naughty thrills of Baby Face, but it’s a good western in beautifully-restored technicolor.

Our lead cowboy Logan (Dana Andrews, star of Night of the Demon, had postwar rage issues in The Best Years of Our Lives) is aggressively growing his pack mule business, gets chastely paired up with British Caroline (Patricia Roc). His banker buddy George (Brian Donlevy, Dr. Quatermass and the great McGinty) has a fine mustache but also has gambling problems, is stealing from the bags of gold dust in his vault to pay his debts, and after he eventually gets killed, Logan is free to steal his girl Lucy (Susan Hayward, Veronica Lake’s love rival in I Married a Witch), who is more Logan’s adventurous type.

Bragg (foreground) and Logan:

George and Lucy:

In between, a bunch of serious stuff happens. A young couple marries, gets a cabin built by the townspeople, then gets slaughtered by indians who attack after large-faced baddie Bragg (Nebraskan Ward Bond of Johnny Guitar and Rio Bravo) probably rapes/kills an indian woman. Logan’s friend Hoagy Carmichael (famous singer/songwriter, also of To Have and Have Not) and decent-enough local dude Lloyd Bridges testify against George, who is freed from jail by Logan only to be gunned down off camera. Logan’s business burns to the ground, and even Andy “Friar Tuck” Devine is killed. Of course there’s a chase/fight at the end, and Bragg is left for the indians. Them were hard times, but that’s a fine supporting cast. Rose Hobart was in there somewhere too, but I’m not sure where.

Lloyd and Hoagy:

Devine and Caroline:

TCM:

Under the familiar trappings of cabin raisings, poker games, saloon brawls and frontier combat is a remarkably dense drama where the tensions between individual enterprise and communal good are often strained and the line between hero and villain is not a matter of black and white, but shades of gray.

Trumpeter Bill (cowboy actor/boxer George Montgomery) is in Glenn Miller’s band, a womanizer who falls for high schooler Connie (Ann Rutherford, one of Scarlett’s sisters in Gone With The Wind). They get married overnight and she joins the other orchestra wives on tour. It’s unbelievable that in the 1940’s it was economical for bands of this size to afford playing park venues and touring with their families, but maybe it’s all magic Hollywood economics. Anyway, Connie’s presence ignites some of the simmering resentment among the other wives and players and the band disintegrates, then she schemes with Glenn to reunite them just in time for a randomly placed, but very welcome, Nicholas Brothers singing and dancing finale.

Episodic musical with odd framing story, Bill receiving mail and having to convince an assembled crowd of kids that he used to be a big time musician and dancer who rolled with Cab Calloway and Lena Horne and Fats Waller. In flashbacks, Bill starts in the army band then bounces to different locations, accumulating famous friends starting with Lena (wearing a series of magnificent hats). We kept hoping the movie wasn’t setting them up as a romantic couple since Bill is forty years older, but it didn’t really have romance (or story, or dialogue, or acting) on its mind – just a string of increasingly great musical numbers from an all-black cast culminating in the most outrageous Nicholas Brothers routine.

Stone was oscar-nominated a decade later for a Doris Day comedy thriller. Most of his movies star the whitiest white people and are now obscure. Neither Bill “Bojangles” Robinson nor Fats would live past the 1940’s, but Lena and Cab and the Nicholas Brothers lived another 50+ years, hopefully long enough to win every award and accolade.

Fats:

Lena smiles so hard I’m surprised she didn’t hurt herself:

These two MUST have hurt themselves: