Monday, October 27, 2014

Little Of Column A, Little Of Column B: The Prisoner Of Zenda

I don't about you, but sometimes I see a remake of a movie and end up wishing I could combine elements of both it and the original. The 1952 version of The Prisoner of Zenda, which TCM broadcast again last night, is just such a movie. I like it, and I like the original 1937 version, too (and I especially like the book they're both based on). But I like Ronald Colman and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. from the '37 version better while I prefer Deborah Kerr and Jane Greer from the '52 version.

Mind you, there's nothing wrong with, respectively, Stewart Granger, James Mason, Madeleine Carroll and Mary Astor. They're great. I just think in these particular roles, the other pairings are better.

Now if only somebody could whip out their computer and cut and paste the two films together, we might really have something.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Early Dragnet

Check out the actor who opens the door after the first commercial break of this episode of Dragnet that aired on February 14, 1952.

Friday, October 17, 2014

They Came To Cordura (1959): Mini-Review

Katie-Bar-The-Door is out of town this weekend, so last night the Monkey sat on the couch with the dog and box of ginger snaps and watched They Came To Cordura, a mediocre late-50s western starring Gary Cooper as a coward ironically put in charge of making Medal of Honor recommendations during America's little-remembered invasion of Mexico in 1916.

Because America will need live heroes to pimp for the coming world war, Cooper is charged with escorting the Medal nominees back to base, giving him a perfect opportunity to quiz each man on the essential nature of courage and to marinate in his own lack thereof. Unfortunately, the nominees aren't really heroes, just deeply (deeply!) flawed men who happened to have had one reflexive moment of extraordinary valor. Given ample opportunity to demonstrate their true nature, they talk-talk-whine gripe-carp-moan all the way home while the supposed-coward Cooper shows them what real men are all about.

Sort of a Red Badge of Courage for people who wished that classic novel had fewer battle scenes and more ham-handed philosophical discussions.

The main attraction of this film for me was its setting. My late father-in-law was pals with John Eisenhower who wrote a series of books about U.S.-Mexican relations including one, Intervention!, about the time Black Jack Pershing, his cavalry aide George S. Patton and half the U.S. Army chased Pancho Villa around the mountains of northern Mexico. Eisenhower sent me a copy of the book, wrote a nice note, and I've since become something of a nut for the subject. The movie doesn't have much to say about that farcical episode in American history, but there are a few location shots and when Cooper mentioned hiding in a railroad ditch in Columbus, New Mexico, I knew exactly what he was talking about.

So in a sense, this review is really about me. As is everything I write.

Also starring Rita Hayworth and Van Heflin.

Rating: 2 stars out of 5.

Trivia note: It was during the filming of this movie that Dick York of Bewitched fame severely injured his back leading to a lifetime of pain and addiction that cut short his career.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Sometimes You Eat The Bear And Sometimes The Bear Eats You

Some attribute the quote to Preacher Roe, a major league pitcher from 1938 to 1954. Ian Matthews released an album by that title in 1974. Sam Elliott quotes it to great effect in 1998's The Big Lebowski.

Personally, I think it was William Faulkner in an early draft of his short story "The Bear." If it wasn't, it should have been.

Which reminds me of an article Ken Ringle wrote for the Washington Post many years ago, recalling his days as a graduate student in Faulkner's class:

We would sit there gaping, wracking our under-booked brains for some question that wouldn’t make us look stupid.

“Mr. Faulkner, in your short story ‘The Bear,’ do you consider the bear a positive nature symbol or a negative nature symbol or a symbol both positive and negative like the white whale in Moby-Dick?”

“Oh,” he’d eventually say in his thin, reedy voice, after puffing on his pipe long enough to raise the suspense: “That’s just a story about a bear.”