Someday I will be able to recognize Deborah Kerr from one movie to the next. Here she’s a singer who runs into celebrity playboy Cary Grant on a cruise ship. After they’re seen together a few times, everyone on the ship assumes they’re having an affair, so while they’re trying to cover up an affair they’re not even having, they fall for each other. Actually I suppose it happens at a shore stop when Cary takes Deborah to meet his granny (Cathleen Nesbitt of Family Plot, not as frail as she looked, lived another 25 years). It wasn’t enough to be attractive and in love in the 1950’s – you had to prove your family values by being nice to granny. Second half: painting, empire state building, secrets, and that awful reveal when he finds out she didn’t mean to stand him up, but was hit by a car on the way to their rendezvous. When I try typing up more story details, my eyes get strangely blurry until I can’t see the screen.

Remake of McCarey’s own Love Affair, and nominated for almost as many oscars, again with no wins (apparently Bridge on the River Kwai was really fucking good). I definitely preferred this version – Kerr is Irene Dunne’s equal, Grant blows away Charles Boyer, and the movie’s color/widescreen look is intensely appealing. Late McCarey, made a decade after Good Sam. Grant was between To Catch a Thief and Indiscreet (another love-scandal movie) and Kerr a few years after From Here to Eternity. As their fiancees: Creature with the Atom Brain star Richard Denning and Desk Set computer programmer Neva Patterson.

Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942, Leo McCarey)

Another nazi comedy, this one McCarey’s follow-up to Love Affair. Ginger Rogers has finally landed a rich baron (Walter Slezak, title star of Dreyer’s Michael, also in Lifeboat), follows him to various countries, each of which falls to Hitler soon after. This gets the attention of reporter Cary Grant, and French secret agent Albert Dekker (ultimate baddie of Kiss Me Deadly). Ginger proves her loyalty to the viewer by rescuing her Jewish maid (Natasha Lytess, Marilyn Monroe’s acting coach) before agreeing to spy for Dekker, while Cary takes a nazi radio propagandist job, like if Mother Night was a comedy. The spy game doesn’t work too well, so Ginger pushes the baron overboard on an ocean liner and sails away with Cary.

The More The Merrier (1943 George Stevens)

A different kind of wartime picture than Once Upon a Honeymoon. This one focuses on the high women-to-men ratio in the D.C. area, and a housing shortage that forced people to take roommates. The story is short on logic, but the cast is super cute – and I don’t mean Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea, I’m talking about Charles “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” Coburn, great scammer of The Lady Eve. It’s the usual setup, where sweetie Jean is engages to a boring dude (Richard Gaines, Edward G. Robinson’s boss in Double Indemnity) but oughtta be with Joel instead, so Coburn invents complicated ways to make that happen, but all while the three are roommates.

Nominated for most major oscars, but up against Casablanca. Coburn still won an award. Remade as Walk, Don’t Run with Cary Grant. The last comedy Stevens would make before heading to war. IMDB: “Joining the Army Signal Corps, Stevens headed up a combat motion picture unit from 1944 to 1946. In addition to filming the Normandy landings, his unit shot both the liberation of Paris and the liberation of the Nazi extermination camp Dachau, and his unit’s footage was used both as evidence in the Nuremberg trials and in the de-Nazification program after the war.”

Just as narratively complicated as The Strawberry Blonde but with 100% less weight – a fluffy Mae West comedy written by a fluffy Mae West and directed by McCarey, who could surely handle this after dealing with the Marx brothers in Duck Soup. Mae gets all the attention, massive hats, punchlines and glamorous lighting, and there’s nothing else to say about the filmmaking – except for one amazing scene. She has given a few bucks to her maid Libby Taylor (also Mae’s maid in I’m No Angel), who goes down to a musical prayer meeting at the river while Mae stands in her window above the river singing her own song – as the songs collide and blend, so do the visuals.

Anyway the plot is ridiculous – Mae likes a boxer (Roger Pryor, son of bandleader Arthur) but pretends to dump him during training and moves to New Orleans where she continues her hit stage show of standing silently in huge costumes subtly moving her hips to rapturous applause (she also sings sometimes). The boxer comes to N.O. to fight the champ, and Mae’s promoter (professional mustachioed villain John Miljan) is ripping her off. Mae spikes her boyfriend’s water, causing him to lose the fight and ruining Miljan financially – then as his theater burns down, the boxer kills Miljan, and somehow all this is okay and they end up together.

There’s also a rich beau, a damsel in distress, and Duke Ellington, who appears on piano but wrote none of the songs. We didn’t know what instrument Duke plays or what he looks like, so weren’t even sure that he was in the movie.

Wikipedia: “A publicity stunt went awry when 50 parrots were trained to shout the original title of It Ain’t No Sin. The parrots were subsequently released in the jungles of South America still repeating ‘it ain’t no sin’ over and over again.”

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Singer (1974, Chris Marker)

It’s not a short (an hour long), but I have little to say about it, so this is a short entry. The movie’s probably of more interest to fans of Yves Montand’s singing career than of Marker’s filmmaking or their shared politics. Marker focuses on Montand’s rehearsals for an upcoming concert benefitting Chilean refugees and he cuts to clips from the concert itself, and clips from Montand’s political films (Z, The Confession, The War Is Over).

Shot by the IMDB-credited Pierre Lhomme (Mr. Freedom, Army of Shadows) as well as Jacques Renard (Celine & Julie Go Boating) and Yann Le Masson. A nicely put-together little movie, but more like your standard fly-on-wall doc mixed with a celebrity personality piece than Marker’s usual style. Montand is passionate about the details, but it’s not my kind of music so I’m not sure what he’s going for. M. Legrand was involved somehow.

Some dude on the sidelines sports a Flo & Eddie shirt:

Lady Blue Shanghai (2010, David Lynch)

Plays like a total Inland Empire outtake (or Darkened Room 2). A confused Marion Cotillard calls security on an expensive handbag (the short was commissioned as a handbag advertisement) found in her room. She grabs it and half-remembers some alternate-existence romantic rooftop chase scene, featuring herself, an attractive man from Shanghai, and an expensive handbag.

My Wrongs 8245-8249 and 117 (2002, Chris Morris)

An unstable Paddy Considine is left in charge of the dog, but can’t manage it. Dog dies, Paddy ends up at the pond screaming at ducks. Nice Warp-sounding music from the director. I enjoyed it.

Mermaid (1964, Osamu Tezuka)

Katy likes when I show her movies I haven’t already watched, then criticizes this one for being depressing and My Wrongs for being unfunny. None of Tezuka’s shorts have been sad before (well, Male has a murder scene), so how was I to know? A re-run of Haanstra’s Glas was better-received. This one’s a 1984/freedom-of-thought parable about a boy who catches a fish and imagines its a mermaid, until the thought police imprison him and try to brainwash away his imagination so he’ll see the fish as a fish. Naturally it ends with the boy freeing his fish and either becoming a merman or drowning himself.

The Uneasy Three (1925, Leo McCarey)

A Hal Roach short starring Charley Chase as a wannabe thief who, with his girl and her brother, pretends to be a musical trio to gain entry to a high-society party and steal a valuable brooch. That’s such a generic-sounding description that now I can’t recall if I wrote it or I copy/pasted it from somewhere. Anyway, they successfully fake being musician/entertainers and frame the real musicians for the crime.

Bull Montana, harpist:

Winston Tong en studio (1984, Olivier Assayas)

A studio recording of a silly-sounding song. I missed the vocalist’s interview in French, but enjoyed Jah Wobble’s rant against commercialism. Also liked the filmmakers’ sound mix, keeping bits of the last take in the mix over the interview, dialing up and down the backing music while Tong is singing. Besides Assayas it’s got Nicolas Klotz (La Blessure, La Question Humaine) editing.

Hokusai: An Animated Sketchbook (1978, Tony White)

Tony, an assistant on Richard Williams’ A Christmas Carol brings acclaimed Japanese woodcut artist Hokusai’s drawings wonderfully to life for a five-minute short. Not having any previous Hokusai exposure myself, I can’t tell which drawings are his and which are interpreted by White. Teshigahara had also made a short doc on Hokusai, and a few years after this Kaneto Shindo would make a feature with the great English-language title Edo Porn.

Endangered Species (2006, Tony White)

I found Tony’s other short on YouTube – a eulogy for the lost art of hand-drawn animation, made in collaboration with Roy Disney. So ol’ Walt is championed at the expense of his competitors at Warner Bros. Also parodied: Roger Rabbit, Fritz the Cat, Beavis & Butthead, artistic diversity, and corporations that would cruelly try to control independent animators and diminish their freedom. Seems weird that a pro-Disney film would be against huge companies. Seems to have mixed feelings about Pixar, and tags Hayao Miyazaki as animation’s hope for the future.

This week Katy was envying cable TV for its Christmas movies and Leo McCarey marathons, so I grabbed us a Leo McCarey Christmas movie – his follow-up to The Bells of St. Mary’s, which we started watching and are having trouble finishing.

Good Gary holds the bus while deciding if he should see The Fugitive:

Good Gary Cooper (the year before he woodenly appeared in The Fountainhead) is married to Less Good Ann Sheridan (star of I Was a Male War Bride). She’s hoping to save for a house (they live in a rental), but Sam lends all their money to deadbeat friends, lends the car to a nearsighted neighbor (Clinton Sundberg), offers a bedroom to Ann’s post-traumatic brother, tries to save a suicidal coworker (Joan Lorring of The Verdict and The Big Night), makes friends with an insufferable mechanic (Matt Moore), pisses off his boss (Edmund Lowe) and gives an ex-neighbor (Todd Karns) the entire family savings to open a gas station.

Costumed Gary and Ann with grinning gas-station couple, and Ann’s brother at far right:

Cooper is a department-store salesman with a non-working wife and three kids – that he could afford a dream house is either movie magic or one of those mysterious 1940’s things. Plus, have I mentioned the family employs a maid/cook (Louise Beavers of Holiday Inn)?

Ann with Louise Beavers and the mechanic:

Things work out: the brother and the suicidal coworker fall for each other and move out, the mechanic’s wife is a realtor who finds their dream house, and the ex-neighbor sells his successful gas station and pays back Sam with interest. Nothing good comes of the nearsighted neighbor, I’m afraid. There’s some last-minute suspense when Sam is robbed of company charity funds and the house deal nearly falls through, but a banker decides to do the right thing (heh), thus happy ending.

Good Gary and Less Good Ann, insulting the neighbors for Christmas:

Cute movie, but more complex it might have been. For instance, it opens with a minister (Ray Collins: James Gettys in Citizen Kane) preaching selflessness and helping thy neighbor, but Ann comes to him later asking if he could convince Sam to perhaps be more selfish, or at least to think of his family’s comfort before helping strangers. Also, a regular occurrence is either Sam or Ann loudly insulting one of the people Sam has helped while the subject of their rage lurks awkwardly nearby.

The one where Groucho is “Rufus T. Firefly,” the contrived new president of Freedonia, who causes war with a neighboring country whose ambassador (Louis Calhern, Cary Grant’s boss in Notorious) is trying to cuddle up to the rich woman (Marx regular Margaret Dumont) who installed Rufus on the throne. Despite the simple plot summaries I see online claiming a love triangle plot, Groucho is too anarchic for this, insulting both of them equally, while ruling the country with contempt for power and also for the commoners. Harpo and Chico are supposedly spies, but I preferred their scenes as peanut sellers outside the palace, almost standing disconnected from the rest of the movie. Speaking of disconnect, trusty time-filling brother Zeppo is here, I forget in what role, but he vanishes halfway through except for an unwelcome appearance in the big closing musical number. The great Leo McCarey (Ruggles of Red Gap, The Awful Truth) is said to have directed, and indeed this one holds together as a proper film a bit more than Horse Feathers. Katy didn’t like it, she later revealed.

I finally watched the saddest movie of the entire 1930’s, now that it’s been recommended by every film critic everywhere and given a shiny new video release by Criterion, and I’m glad to discover that it has more in common with McCarey’s other movies (Ruggles of Red Gap, The Awful Truth) than with, for instance, Mizoguchi’s cinema of constant sorrow. Just because it’s a movie about a penniless elderly couple being separated and passed around by their middle-aged siblings who won’t make time in their lives for mom & dad doesn’t mean it can’t be fun to watch.

The couple walks in front of a projection screen:

As the Great Depression was wearing off, there were enough eager young unemployed workers around that nobody had to hire retirement-aged old men, so Barkley Cooper (Victor Moore, Fred Astaire’s buddy in Swing Time) finds himself unemployable and loses his house. His mortgage agent at the bank was a rival for the affections of Barkley’s wife Lucy (Beulah Bondi, Fred MacMurray’s mom in Remember the Night) fifty years ago, finally getting his sweet revenge. So the parents gather four of their five kids (the fifth has moved out west) and explain the situation.

L-R: George, Robert, Cora, Nellie:

Robert (Ray Mayer, played a character called Dopey in the Astaire/Rogers movie Follow the Fleet) somehow avoids taking any responsibility, and the husband of Nellie (Minna Gombell, widow of the murdered Thin Man) forbids her from inviting mom and dad into the house, “I married you, not your parents.” The others claim not to have enough room, so forbidding Cora (Elisabeth Risdon of High Sierra, The Roaring Twenties) takes the dad while weak-willed George (Thomas Mitchell, played Doc Boone in Stagecoach) takes his mother.

Louise Beavers as Mamie, one of many times she’d play a Mamie or Mammy, another being Holiday Inn:

Crazy thing about the 1930’s that familes can act like they are so underpaid, just barely getting by, but still employ a black housekeeper. Most of the rest of the movie follows the mother at George’s house, quickly getting on the nerves of his wife Anita (Fay Bainter, oscar-nominated for playing a homeless mother the following year in White Banners) and daughter Rhoda. Anita teaches classes in bridge at her house, and has as little compassion as the mother has a sense of when it’s inappropriate to start telling rambling stories, so it’s not going well. It’s going even worse for the dad, though, who spends his days with awesome shopkeeper Max (Maurice Moscovitch of Love Affair) because Cora is an intolerable bitch. Nobody cares what the parents want, so they never get to see each other anymore.


Dad can’t find work and the kids can’t put up with this any longer. The new plan is to ship Dad off west with the fifth kid, claiming it’s for his health, and to put Mom in an old folks’ home, which she has visited and has told everyone it seems like a terrible place. The parents are wise to these plans, each figuring out that they’re being shuttled away because they have become inconvenient, but they put on a happy face for their last few hours together, walking the streets as a couple before the farewell dinner with the kids. Suddenly their fortunes turn, and everyone in the city is being nice to them. They enjoy a lovely dinner at the hotel where they’d spent their honeymoon, and then say goodbye at the train station, the kids belatedly discovering that they’d been abandoned. It’s all terrible the way the parents are being treated, but when Mom wonders what had gone wrong, she blames her own parenting. “You don’t sow wheat and reap ashes.” It’s all quite depressing, but skillfully written to also be entertaining without becoming a nonstop weepie.

Ellen Drew of Christmas In July in an early role as a theater usher, with George’s daughter Rhoda:

Outside the movie theater. Souls at Sea got three oscar nominations in ’38 and McCarey’s The Awful Truth got six, including a win for best director. No love for this film, however, which was McCarey’s own favorite.

Garson Kanin would quit directing during WWII, went on to write Adam’s Rib and Born Yesterday. Written by the Spewack family (Kiss Me Kate) with help from producer Leo McCarey (Ruggles of Red Gap, The Awful Truth). Shot by Rudolph Maté (who’d later direct D.O.A.) and edited by Robert Wise (who’d direct Day The Earth Stood Still, The Haunting and West Side Story). That’s altogether too much talent for one light comedy to stand! It holds up just fine, though

Three years after The Awful Truth, Cary Grant and Irene Dunne again play a couple in trouble. This time it’s not simple divorce proceedings – she has been missing for years, stranded on an island with hunky Randolph Scott (a year before Western Union), and Grant has just declared her legally dead so he can marry young Gail Patrick (the bad sister in My Man Godfrey). But it’s clear from the beginning that Dunne and Grant need to end up back together since, first of all they have kids and this is the 40’s, and secondly Randolph and Gail are never taken seriously by the movie, as romantic mates or anything else. And so that’s what happens, and I suppose Randolph and Gail end up together but I can’t remember for sure. Ends with a bonkers scene, Grant trying to sleep on a broken cot in the attic before he gives up and comes down to join his wife. Something about male stubbornness I guess.

Wikipedia calls it screwball but I think that word is tossed around too much. Bosley Crowther at the Times was in a weird mood, calling it “a frankly fanciful farce, a rondo of refined ribaldries,” also giving thumbs-up to Granville Bates as the judge in two major scenes. Remade with Doris Day and James Garner in the 60’s.

She meets He on a cruise boat, both returning to their wealthy fiancees. They fall in love, promise to meet atop the Empire State Building in six months. Breaking off their engagements and learning to be self-sufficient, he works at his paintings and she takes a job as a teacher – but she’s hit by a car on the way to her date. She doesn’t want to be pitied so stays quiet, while he thinks he’s been stood up. They meet again, he learns the truth, loves her anyway. One of the most romantical stories of all time!


Simply-shot, talky melodrama. We watched an ugly, blurry copy, but it seems ugly, blurry copies are the only ones available. The ol’ public-domain problem, I’m guessing. I’ve seen most of the Cary Grant/Deborah Kerr 50’s remake, which is very similar in plot and dialogue, has good color and production design and Cary Grant, so seems the clear winner (though they’re both excellent). This one’s main advantage (besides being the original story cowritten by McCarey himself) is Irene Dunne, who has an awfully cute smile and blows away her own earlier performance in Roberta.


Not much to say about Charles Boyer, besides that I recognize his round face from Liliom. It’s Irene’s movie. In fact, the two of them and Boyer’s grandmother (Maria Ouspenskaya of Dodsworth and The Wolf Man) are practically the only actors in the movie (I’m not counting her choir of overly sweet schoolkids). The remake adds a half hour, fleshes out the parts of their fiancees, gives his art dealer and her school principal more lines.


Screenwriter Delmer Daves would later helm Dark Passage and 3:10 to Yuma. Love Affair was nominated for every oscar (except actor – sorry, Chuck Boyer) but didn’t stand a chance against color epics Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz.