Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Movies

Once again, I have had some computer issues.  I must get some bills out of the way so I can upgrade!

What is your favorite Thanksgiving film? That’s, at once, an easy and difficult question to answer.  There are few movies dedicated to Turkey Day that I can find, so picking a favorite should be easy…if you can find one.

There are a dozen films with the exact title, Thanksgiving, but all are shorts or documentaries, including several short horror films.  Not great for an after dinner screening.

There is one 1912 movie called Thanksgiving from Reliance Film Company, but it has no details so it is probably lost.  Reliance made over 600 films between 1910 and 1916 when they were either bought of went out of business.  Interestingly, Frank Capra (1897 – 1991) made his first film at Reliance in 1915 as a film editor.

IMDb also has a keyword feature, so I searched for ‘Thanksgiving.’  235 results!  I sorted them by rating, so I could suggest the best results, and wanted to see only big screen releases.  I think the Hallmark Channel makes a Thanksgiving movie every year, so TV movies are out.  There is one at the left, if you are interested.

The top rated movie under that keyword was, Rocky (1976)!  Next came Hannah and her Sisters (1986).  Neither of those a saying much about the holiday, at least to me.

Third choice, BINGO!  Miracle on 34th Street from 1947.  This is probably the best choice.  It starts at the staging area for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York.  From there you get a top notch, heart-warming story, with a bit of fantasy and a happy ending.

Let’s try something else. Keyword ‘Pilgrims’ has only four results, and only one was a theatrical release, a 1944 short called I Am an American.

On to keyword ‘Pocahontas’…with better results. Pocahontas (1910) is the first entry, a short film starring Frank Hall Crane (1873 – 1948) and no actress listed for the title role on IMDb.  Two more silent shorts were made in 1923 and 1924 called Jamestown and Pocahontas and John Smith.

Talkies…Captain John Smith and Pocahontas (1953) starring Anthony Dexter (1913 – 2001) who has 24 titles, and Jody Lawrance (1930 – 1986) who has 22 titles.  No reason to change the title from ladies first!

The next feature film is the only recent one named Pocahontas, the 1995 animated version from Walt Disney.  I doubt that Poca looked much like Disney’s drawings, but it was a hit movie.  If you have kids, this is a good after dinner option.

The last film entry is Pocahontas: The Legend (1995) starring Sandrine Holt (b. 1972) and Miles O’Keeffe (b. 1954).  It scored only a 2.7 on the IMDb ratings and was panned for it’s historical inaccuracies, as are most Poca movies.  The real story was based mostly on John Smith's memoirs, and he apparently embellished the story a bit.  Maybe he wanted to be a screen writer.

So it looks like Miracle on 34th Street is the best choice for an after T’giving dinner movie. Maybe football would be better…NAH!  I’m a movie guy.  But I can only take 34th St once a year.

Let me know your choice.  Leave a comment.  I will work on Christmas movies earlier so I can get something posted sooner!  I hope your Thanksgiving Day was restful, and filled with family and friends…and perhaps a good movie.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hollywood Homicide

I had the misfortune to choose a free, on-demand, Harrison Ford movie this weekend called Hollywood Homicide (2003).  I guess Mr. Ford can't have all hits.  This one would not be on my "must have" list, but I won't hold it against Harrison!

It is a story about two detectives in LA, who are working on a murder case.  Both detectives have second jobs.  Ford is a real estate agent, and the other lead, Josh Hartnet (b. 1978), is an aspiring actor.  There is a very serious murder to be solved, but for some reason they thought it would be funny to let their second jobs get in the way of everyday police work.  It wasn't.

Example:  After a really exciting car chase, Ford gets into an elevator with several innocent bystanders.  He is bloody, carrying a gun, and his cell phone rings.  He closes a deal on a house while riding the elevator, then smiles at the others.  I would have let the call go to voicemail.

Notwithstanding, there were many Bit Actors involved in this movie, and some of them were pretty good.  I don't have to write about good movies, just good Bit Actors!

When the titles were rolling, one name stuck out...Gladys Knight (b. 1944), without The Pips.  That may be one reason I watched the movie.  She played the mother, and a former Motown singer, of a witness to the murder.  Gladys only has 15 titles as an actress, but she was good in this one.  As they are talking about rappers, Ford says, "I don't get the music."  Knight replies, "You ain't s'posed to get the music." in a perfectly timed response with just the right expression.

Bruce Greenwood (b. 1956) played one of the bad cops.  He has a long career in the works with 103 titles, starting in 1977.  I vaguely remember him in "St. Elsewhere" in the 1980s.  He also played Dennis Wilson, one of the original Beach Boys in "Summer Dreams: The Story of the Beach Boys" in 1990. 

In 1992 Greenwood worked with Wesley Snipes (b. 1962) in Passenger 57.  As the years passed, he works in a few more TV series' and a pretty good list of movies:
1997 - Father's Day with Robin Williams (b. 1951)
1999 - Thick as Thieves with Alec Baldwin (b. 1958)
2000 - Rules of Engagement with Tommy Lee Jones (b. 1946)
2004 - I, Robot with Will Smith (b. 1968)
2005 - Capote
2009 - Star Trek

Lou Diamond Phillips (b. 1962) is another good actor.  He has 97 titles on IMDb, and I particularly liked him in Courage Under Fire (1996) as an intense (and guilty) soldier who eventually commits suicide.  In an earlier film, he played Richie Valens in La Bamba (1987). 

All in all, if you get to see this movie for free, it might be worth the effort.  The action scenes are very good, but the comedy needs a lot of work.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Andy Clyde

We caught the 1935 movie Annie Oakley last night on Encore Westerns.  Not a bad movie, very entertaining, but it was certainly not very factual.  Barbara Stanwick (1907 - 1990) played the lead, with Preston Foster (1900 - 1970) and a young Pert Kelton (1907 - 1968) in tow.

I particularly enjoyed seeing Andy Clyde (1892 - 1967) in a good supporting role.  I remember seeing Andy in a lot of early TV reruns and B-westerns when I was a child.

Andy was born in Scotland and was popular in vaudeville and music halls there, in the 1920s.  He came to America and started making silent films in 1921.  Not long after his debut he began working at Mack Sennett, and eventually had his own series of short comedies.  In his early silent days, his titles are not much to talk about, but he did get to work with Ben Turpin (1869 - 1940), Harry Langdon (1884 - 1944) and other greats.

Actually, some of the titles are quite humorous.  The Half-Back of Notre Dame, Scarem Much, Lizzies of the Field, and Riders of the Purple Cows all in 1924; Super-Hooper-Dyne Lizzies, Sneezing Beezers, and Dangerous Curves Behind in 1925, etc.  Some of these should be worth looking into.  Up until 1933, Andy Clyde made about 170 films at Mack Sennett.  With his good voice and Scottish accent, he easily made the transition to talkies.

My guess is that the two reel comedy was such a popular item, all the studios were cashing in with whoever they had on contract.  Of course, Charlie Chaplin, and Laurel and Hardy were the most popular. Educational Films Corporation of America had Andy's contract after he left Sennett.  Not exactly a good studio name for comedy shorts!

Andy started working in features.  Annie Oakley (1935) as I mentioned above, It's a Wonderful World (1939) with Claudette Colbert (1903 - 1996) and Jimmy Stewart, Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940) with Raymond Massey (1896 - 1983).

His formula for success was playing an old man of one sort or another.  His large mustache added character to this character actor.  He found another repeating role as one of Hopalong Cassidy's sidekicks, and he worked with William Boyd (1895 - 1972) in about 36 films in the 1940s, and then went on to Hoppy's TV series.

Andy worked in quite a few television shows, including some repeating roles in "Circus Boy," "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin," "The Texan," "The Real McCoys," "No Time for Sergeants," and "Lassie."

He also never gave up on his comedy shorts and made them well into the 1950s.  It was a format that was dying, though.  Theaters were ending the full show presentation that had included a B-movie, a few cartoons, perhaps a newsreel, and a feature...and started showing just a feature film.  The features were getting longer, and money was getting tighter now that TV was taking some of the audience.

With 378 titles listed on IMDb, I think Andy Clyde had a wonderful career.