Frank’s Fax Facts and Reviews

Vol. XVIII, No. 46

 Sunday, February 3, 2013      

        Yesterday was Ground Hog Day, and frankly, my dears, I don’t care if he saw his shadow or not! For me, a ground hog spells nothing but sausages: preferably Italian! As luck would have it, Turner Classic Movies had it, that was the most irritating of Bill Murray’s terrible films,  I actually watched about five minutes, and suddenly realized what a really stupid and irritating film Ground Hog Day was! But I still like Bill Murray: believe it or not!



“I have never taken any exercise except resting and sleeping.”         Mark Twain

Old Movie Review

The Lady Vanishes (British, 1938)

Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave meet on a train in this classic film, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. There is plenty of suspense and all of the characters are beautifully cast. The film became such a huge hit in the U.S. that Hitchcock was soon making his way over here (beginning his USA career with Oscar winning Rebecca.)

Hitchcock and Redgrave did not get along at all working on this film, and, as a result, they never worked together again. Lockwood may well have been the last brunette (and a gorgeous one, at that) he used as a leading lady, preferring blonds; Grace Kelly (Dial M for Murder; Rear Window; To Catch a Thief) Priscilla Lane (Saboteur) Kim Novak (Vertigo) Eve Marie Saint (North by Northwest) and even Doris Day (The Man Who Knew Too Much) James Stewart (who was Doris Day’s husband in the above film) and Cary Grant were Hitchcock’s  two favorite male stars. Stewart was Grace Kelley’s co-star in Rear Window and Kim Novak in Virtigo. Hitchcock’s  practice of making one-minute appearances in most of his later films (as well as his deliberately slow speeches on his long-running television show) gave us an idea that he was having more fun that a barrel of monkeys! Here was a man who loved his work. And why not, when he could work with stars like Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant; Joan Fontaine and Sir Lawrence Olivier; and Shirley McClain in What’s the Matter with Charlie?

        Tragically, another film with the same title was made in 1979, in Britain, with Elliot Gould and Cibyll Shepherd. Not even Angela Lansbury could save this “Dog”! My book: Movies on TV and videocassette writes: “Having destroyed the musical comedy with At Long Last Love, Shepherd goes after suspense films with almost equally disastrous results in this unnecessary remake of the Hitchcock classic.” Having seen this travesty at the old Dollar Theater, I totally concur.

        Also in the original version, a young and handsome Paul Lucas is superb as the physician who turns out to be the villain of the piece.

        I thoroughly enjoyed this original version when I had not seen before.

Draft Dodgers Anonymous

        We seemed to be in the middle of a time warp, after settling down (more or less) to the monotony of the depressing place known as Camp Kilmer.  You remember: he was the guy (Joyce Kilmer—and I have always hated my name!) It was almost worth getting into New York three weekends in a row to endure the useless “Details” we had to perform almost daily. We even pulled KP twice: and we felt so much above this disgusting labor. Once, we were assigned to make ready (read that as “Make sure everything was immaculately clean and totally germ free”) the Officers’ Mess Hall, it wasn’t bad.. As usual, we were able to find a positive benefit (for us, natch!) in coming upon a brand new container of Jiff Peanut Butter. There just happened to be a whole box (4 packs) of crisp and tasty Saltine crackers. We enjoyed the heck out of cramming our mouths with this delicious treat, and ate so much of it, we didn’t even have room for the exquisite- (Not!)  C Rations the higher ups would be having for their lunch.

        The first two Saturdays in New Jersey, we were issued weekend passes. Lynn and I went alone, and took an economical room within walking distance, to the theater where Leslie Caron was appearing in a dance “Bit of Culture called “Ballet de Paris”) or some such title. I believe she was married (at this time), to George Balanchine, the founder of the ballet troupe. The best part of being in uniform was that we got free tickets, just by walking into a place that gave service men several choices of Off-Broadway Musicals, concerts in Carnegie Hall, even stark dramas and other stage plays.

        We had both heard Marcus Jordan ranting and raving about Broadway Musicals ever since he returned to Ellisville and we decided to join the army that we were determined to see one of them, even though we did have to pay for these: and at $10 a pop, we considered this Highway Robbery! As it happened to be a weekend on which a national holiday fell on Monday, we had all day Sunday and Monday free!

This was our third consecutive weekend in New York, and Dale Hudson decided to go with us. It was far more fun with the three of us. We were able to get a large suite of rooms, for the two nights we spent there. When we pooled our  cash, we found we had more than enough to allow each of us to have his own bedroom

Sunday, we got free tickets to hear the New York Philharmonic, in an afternoon concert that included Scumann’s Piano Concerto (I had worked  with Dohnanyi all of the previous summer on this work, and loved it. To me, it is still one of the most beautiful works for piano and orchestra I have ever heard). The pianist was a woman I had never heard of, but she was more than up to the task and played it magnificently. I remember nothing else of the concert, because we had gone to hear the NBC Symphony Orchestra that morning, and I was so disappointed to find out that the conductor was not to be Toscanini! But, believe me, there was no reason to be disappointed! We had heard two magnificent concerts, and it had not cost us one red cent!

Monday was President’s Day, allowing us enjoy that extra day of freedom. At that time, Rodgers and Hammerstein had no less than  three musicals, all playing at the same time on Broadway! The only one I remember clearly was Me and Juliet. The other two were all sold out. We were told we could buy Standing Room Only for Five bucks, but standing was not in any of our vocabularies: so we paid over twice as much for the pleasure of seeing the least promising of the three (I’m almost sure The King and I was one of the sold out plays. And Marcus had raved about this one so long that I really did not care if I ever saw it!)

Monday’s matinee, the theater (which was spectacular, in our opinion) was pretty well full; and we had arrived really early, determined not to miss a single second of its performance. When the lights went down, I started feeling the magic automatically. The orchestra was the best one I had ever heard; and with our Community Concerts allowing me to hear twelve first-rate concerts of every kind of Serious Music (nothing as trivial as Rodgers and Hammerstein!) I considered myself an expert critic back then.

There it was! The beautiful theme song from Me and Juliet! I could not remember the name, but later, when it was sung by the leads, I remembered: it was No Other Love! There is no other way to tell it, but we were all mesmerized by the entire performance. The leads were both well-known singers who divided their time between Hollywood and Broadway; the stage machinery had all of us country boys gasping at its wondrous ability to recreate almost any effect that New Yorkers could enjoy any time they wanted to; so long as they could afford it!

        We all decided that Marcus was so right! Broadway musicals, as they were back then, were by far one of the the most wonderful things in this world!

        We grabbed a hamburger after Me and Juliet, the hurried to the Roxy Theater, where we thoroughly enjoyed New Faces of 1952. The place was packed (it was a huge cinema) and everybody there seemed to be having a great time. I had been made aware of the Broadway musical, while still at FSU. One of my teachers there was telling me and someone else about a singer named Eartha Kitt, and how great she was. She sang a really sophisticated song called “Monotonous” on the stage, and brought the house down every time, I later read! In the filmed version, she sang several songs, including “Santa Baby”, another perfect vehicle for her special kind of voice. Much later, while teaching at Grass Lake, Michigan, I drove to Detroit to see her in a comedy, whose name I have forgotten, but it was made into a movie, with Barbra Streisand and George Segal. I was a real fan of Miss Kitt.

        It is hard to believe, but when I was telling George about New Faces, he told me that it had played in Laurel for one day only, and it was so poorly attended that the theater manager called New Orleans to get another film for the next two days! The entire movie was fantastic to all three of us: there was a man who played Truman Capote (whose notoriety had begun by then); there was wonderful Alice Ghostly; Paul Lynde could make me laugh out loud without even trying; plus several others who did not quite reach the popularity of the bigger stars.

        A few years ago I read that the Roxy Theater had been demolished, and I was saddened to think this perfect Movie Theater was no more! I was so happy that I had been fortunate enough to enjoy a really special sort of film there’

        After the excitement of our longer New York adventure, we were not too upset that we had to pull KP a second time. That was on Tuesday.

        We heard rumors, almost as soon as we got back, that we would be shipped out sometime in the week! So that was the end of our wonderful introduction to that Wonderful Town!

(Next week: On the high seas)


Old Movie Review\

Quiz #70

1.      Which of these actresses won the most Best Actress Oscars? Olivia Dehaviland, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford. Joan Fontaine or Katherine Hepburn?

2.      In King’s Row, who was the actress who played Claude Rains’ daughter?

3.      What Singer played a Catholic priest in The Miracle of the Bells?

4.      What Metropolitan Opera Mezzo Soprano was in Going My Way, with Bing Crosby?\

5.      Who played Joan of Arc in RKO’s biographical  film?

6.      What actor portrayed Brahms in MGM’s Song of Love?

7.      Who portrayed Clara Schumann?

8.      What versatile actor played the submarine’s captain in Thirty Seconds over Tokyo?

9.      Who was the tenor whose film debut shot him to immediate fame? He was The Great Carouso, literally.

10.      Who was his Soprano co-star?

Answers to Quiz 69

1.      Another version of Some Like it Hot, was released in the 1930s. with the ever popular Bob Hope and Shirley Ross. It had nothing to do with the later version, other than the title.

2.      Boston Blackie (played by Kent Taylor) was the hero of a semi-popular series of “B films” of the 30’s and 40’s.

3.      Erle Stanley Gardener’s Della Street was played by Barbara Hale in the TV version of Perry Mason mysteries.

4.      The female sleuth played by Angela Lansbury on Sunday night TV was Jessica Fletcher in. Murder, She Wrote.

5.      Spellbound was the title of David O, Selznick’s psychological thriller with Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck. There was even a Spellbound piano concerto! Shades of the Warsaw Concerto!

6.      Salvadore Dali designed the sets for this film.

7.      Ingrid Bergman’s Stromboli was the film that caused her disgrace in 1950.

8.      Autumn Sonata was this beautiful star’s last film; It was also the only film she made with Ingmar Bergman’(to whom she was not related).

9.      A Matter of Time was the film that Bergman shared with Liza Minnelli. They were directed by Vincent Menelli.

10.      Cary Grant was Ingrid’s co-star in Alfred Hitchcock’s  Notorious. They set the record (at that time) for the longest kiss in the history of cinemas!

Sunday, February 3, 2013