THE GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE (1968)

Sixties film making has a particular niche and creators pressed  new subject matter and techniques.   The rise of the ‘biker film,’ thought to be low budget drive in fare for the  teenagers more interested in making sure  the ‘wild oats’ were well stowed away. Many of these films were training grounds for people like writer/ director Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern,  John Cassavetes, who became a pioneer of  independent film making, plus the wonderful Roger Corman and others.  One of the most interesting of these  is  the neglected film THE GIRL ON A  MOTORCYCLE (1968).

The  arts climate was full of change. Films such as  BLOW UP (1966) with David Hemmings, the off kilter fun of  BARBARELLA (1968) with Jane Fonda (based on a comic strip),  CANDY (1968), MODESTY BLAISE (1966) starring Monica Vitti,  which was also based on a comic strip.  The psychedelic film also had a turn. It  usually involved a  woman and  some sort of  altered  reality.  Lana  Turner  showed up in this genre  with the slightly odd  THE  BIG CUBE(1969). For this, she ingested LSD given to her by George Chakris.  Love and free love were looked at from all angles and in all colors.

THE GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE (1968) stars Marianne Faithful as motorcycle rider who is going to see her lover, played by Alain Delon.  Both of these people were at the height of  European cool with Delon appearing as the  hit man with ice in his veins  in Jean Pierre Melville’s classic LE SAMOURAI (1967).

 

Marianne  Faithfull was a fashion model and connected with the  Rolling Stones and  Mick Jagger in many ways. Faithfull was said to be found only wearing a carpet during the infamous drug bust at Keith Richard’s West Sussex Mansion in 1968. She may have  flashed the  police officers  as  she was  going upstairs, making her an instantly cheeky sensation with the younger set  and  reviled for having no morals by the olders.

 

THE  GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE (1968)  is  directed (oddly enough) by Jack Cardiff, who was extremely accomplished  in creating the ‘Prism.’ Cardiff  was  cinematographer  for such  essential films as  BLACK NARCISSUS (1947) and THE RED SHOES (1948),  plus  PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN (1951)  and  THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951). The  color palette used and  defusing of colors blending  with the wardrobe colors make this picture wonderful to look at.

 

The story is simply shot with Faithfull  having moments on the road as she is  on her way to see  her lover while driving a lovely Harley Davidson Electra Glide bike – a  symbol of freedom.    She  has flashbacks to relationships with the  two men in her life who are radically different. Daniel (Alain Delon) is the intellectual, sensual school teacher  who talks about the philosophy of love. He  questions morals in his lectures, asking his students what they perceive as love, or, simply, lust. Raymond  (Rodger Mutton) is more conformist as they have almost grown up together. In short, the opposite of  Daniel.

On a ski trip in a flash back sequence, Daniel meets Rebecca (Marianne Faithful), they steal glances and talk, only to have Daniel come to her room that night after Raymond  has politely left.  Daniel and Rebecca spend the night together with all the full blown furore of sixties love making and flashy colors supplied by Jack Cardiff.

 

Jack Cardiff’s camera makes the story flow as he works the angles into long, liquid sequences. Faithful’s obvious looks  are highlighted  with closeups of her  face and her one piece leather suit that must have influenced the look of  Emma Peel and Cathy Gale from THE AVENGERS (1968) (Not the  silly Marvel film series).   Rebecca  does put on  the leather  garb at the beginning of the picture, prompting credence for the  American/alternate title of the  film, NAKED UNDER LEATHER and its X rating.

The  effects  are obviously limited as Faithful does look to be on the back of trailer with the camera positioned in front  as  she is  driving.  One gets to many picturesque European locales  such as  France, Germany, Belgium on roads with little traffic that perhaps don’t  exist anymore.  Those days of simply driving up on to one guard at a  gate point, showing your ownership and identity papers and being allowed to drive through are, of course, long gone. This  happens to Rebecca as she  enters  a border crossing  when she flirts with a border guard.

Rebecca experiences many moments on the  journey as she stops into to have a drink, only to be noticed by the local male population.  She dreams of  unzipping her  top and flashing them all before  running away.

THE  GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE(1968) is a  wistful film about being free to love and being on the open road.  That freedom  does come at a price, as  will be apparent at the film’s  conclusion.   It is an interesting look at sixties morals as  Rebecca speaks profanity with a smile,  and catches the eyes of people on the sidewalk as she drives through a  town in an act of rebellion. Something a little  different  from the political dramas  and  bloodletting that was the reality of the  Sixties.

THE THOR TRUTH

I quite enjoy a spirited discussion on film and  Martin Scorsese ruffled a few tunics by saying “Marvel movies are not cinema.”   I have enclosed the link for reference:

Martin Scorsese: I Said Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema. Let Me Explain.

 Now, being a ‘white guy’ myself, I cannot help but see through the filter I have.  Mr.  Scorsese was correct.
The films lack the depth of the comics.   The Marvel comics of the  sixties were  vastly different and reflected heroes and villains  differently from its competition.  The original FANTASTIC FOUR, SPIDER MAN, X MEN, etc touched  areas of society not  seen before in the hero genre of comics. Any emotional upheaval in these  films is surface, and smacks of poor writing choices. The Marvel films are roller coaster  rides sprinkled  with moments of  brooding  heroes in tights  with guns.  These are not deep characters; however, some audiences may have a history with them from the various incarnations in their past.
This brings me to the ongoing problem in film:  the  Art of Acting is  suffering.   We speak in Classical Film of the wonderful performances, which, given their time were  quite on the edge. Hollywood history is  filled with male and female actors wanting to play more substantial roles than monsters, gangsters, sword swingers, cowboys  and many others. The public, also known as the box office, was the arbitrator.
I have often said that we  have ‘boy men’ on the screen who could not play tough guys if  hit in the head. We have some that couldn’t do an accent if they had a year to work on it (with honourable mention to Daniel Craig in KNIVES OUT (2019). Mr Craig does his  American accent with gusto, only faltering in a few spots. I  find it hard to  accept Leonardo  DiCaprio on screen with anything as there is  really nothing there. There is no  truth,  no effort  to  work. Hence I do not understand how his one note performances  get awards  and adulation. But,   he  puts ‘ bums in the seats.’  The more he ages  and gets a filled out face perhaps he could become a good character actor as now there is  distinction.  Please  learn how to alter  your voice on a constant basis, change your look and inhabit someone other than yourself.
That’s why like  the current adaption of LITTLE WOMEN (2019), directed  by Greta Gerwig, is a modern acting class on film.  The entire  cast shines on the screen, along with wonderful understated  direction, shot selection, music and color pallet.  The actor that steals the  film is Timothée  Chalamet  as  Theodore  ‘Laurie’ Lawrence.
The fellow  has  screen presence, movement, and  some  ‘Lord Byron’ looks that will go far.  Plus he can deliver dialogue other than one note slang.
 Everyone in this  film works well and is  given a moment on the screen.  The  tragic thing about this film is it may not make  money as ‘men’ are not going to it as  it is thought to be  a  ‘chick flick.’ I abhor the term.  Hollywood  did call them ‘women’s pictures.’  This film is clearly not.  There  no car chases (there is  a horse pursuit in the rain) and  no  rapid camera work of the  hand held variety in a  fight. Acutal. Simple. Story.
Film watching and producing has  changed  with  the  advent of Netflix,  most likely Amazon, and  studios with their own channels.   I hope it  changes for the  better as one  can get caught up in the method of delivery and forget the  quality.   The  “Medium is the message,” as  was  said  years ago  by Canadian Marshal  Mcluhan.  People get caught up in the actual sending, writing, pressing of buttons  and forget what it is they are sending.
 
I do enjoy Classic film  and the time, however, if we  don’t  watch out we will have none to look forward to.   It’s  unfair to  say this person is  the next Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, or John Wayne since the time is different.  Acting, be it Classic Hollywood  or  today, never goes out of style. When it is neglected, then that is a  loss.

 

THE RESTLESS SPIRIT OF DAVID MANNERS

Not everyone  can be  a big star in Hollywood. In fact, many make a comfortable living and end up drifting into other opportunities.  Some still toil on camera, being the face  you know but can’t put a name to. Whether David Manners  fits into that category along with  Lyle Talbot and  John Qualen, and a  few others, is  debatable.  Mr. Manners  was  unique in his style of being himself.

David Manners was  born  Rauff de Ryther Daun Acklom in  Halifax,  Nova Scotia, Canada in 1900 in to a  rich family. His father ran the prestigious  private boarding school for boys on Tower Road called  Harrow House and later became a literary advisor for E.P. Dutton Publishing Co. in New York.  His mother and sister Cecily immigrated from Canada to join  their father.   Manners  was  an assistant publisher at the  age of nineteen with the same firm as his father.  Wanting a change, he returned to Canada and  attended classes at the University of Toronto in forestry.  However,  it was  the boards of the stage that attracted him as he found the curriculum  to be  boring .  Manners received  training and made his debut  in 1924  in at the school’s Hart House theatre in the Greek play Hippolytus.

 

He returned  to New York where, against his father’s wishes, he continued to pursue acting as his vocation.   It was not long before Manners  was performing in Chicago, and on Broadway plus other places as he joined  touring companies which were  the way actors were trained.   William Pratt, who later became Boris Karloff, took a similar route to the  stage  although he spent more time  in Canada.   Joining Eva Le Gallienne’s Civic Repertory Co., he forged enduring friendships with the legendary teacher and later with Helen Hayes, when both appeared in front of the footlights in the play “Dancing Mothers.”

 

Rauff de Ryther Daun Acklom unoffically changed his name to David Manners to get film work, making it legal in 1940.   The  inspiration for  the Manners  last name was his   Mother’s maiden name.  David was  discovered by James Whale at a Hollywood party and given work in JOURNEY’S END (1930). One could speculate that it was the wholesome look of  Manners that brought him to the attention of Mr Whale.   He rose through the ranks, playing leading and supporting roles to some of the biggest stars like  Katharine Hepburn, Barbara Stanwyck, Claudette Colbert, Gloria Stuart, Myrna Loy, Loretta Young  and Ann Dvorak.   Roles were usually romantic  or light comedy,often playing the dashing wholesome suitor or the hard working fellow that gets the girl.

Manners  was loaned to studios, as was the practiced way of achieving stardom, in CROONER (1932).   His most famous role was that of Jonathan Harker in Universal Studios DRACULA  (1931), with Bela Lugosi and Helen Chandler.  Long after his retirement from films,  Manners  would receive letters about that performance from fans. He claimed to never have seen the finished  picture. He would also appear in THE MUMMY (1932) and  the brilliant THE BLACK CAT (1934)  with both Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff.

Studio wise he began to freelance, resulting in an appearance in the  David O Selznick production at  R.K.O. called  A BILL OF  DIVORCEMENT (1932). That film was also the on screen debut of Katherine Hepburn.  David was  a huge star on the lot, making Hepburn nervous, yet he  was  a total charming professional.    Lucille Ball, who was  “Goldwyn Girl” dancer in the chorus in 1933 ROMAN SCANDAL  expressed her admiration and  for the encouragement he  gave her during early in her career.

“David wasn’t in the one scene I did in Roman Scandals, but he watched every scene shot. He was tremendously enthusiastic, and he…invited me to supper…He was mobbed everywhere. All the time he kept telling me I had style and personality. He said if I persevered I’d get somewhere in Hollywood. Not once did he ever hint that he’d like to take me home to his boudoir…He was so utterly charming.”

He was  briefly married in  1929 to Suzanne Bushnell and lived in Los Angeles during the marriage. The two divorced in 1932. 

David Manners  was one of the first members of the  newly formed (and disliked by studios) Screen Actors Guild.   He grew increasingly frustrated with the roles he was given and retired from film in 1937.  He would perform  on stage in New York and other places after this,  ending the his acting career in 1953.  He began to take an interest in writing after moving back to Victoriaville, Calfornia, where he  published in 1941 the  novel Convenient Season; a second novel, Under Running Laughter, followed in 1943. (He used the name David J. Manners for his novels, both of which were published by his father’s firm,  E.P. Dutton.)  In 1948 he formed a  partnership with playwright Frederic William “Bill” Mercer  who lived at the ranch in Victoriaville and later Pacific Palisades  until  Bill’s death in 1978.

David Manners had  a restless spirit that would not allow  him to stay in one vocation. Did it all come easy for him because of his looks and  money? Perhaps.   Did he play himself  like so many of the leading men of that age did? Maybe.   What he did leave on film are  roles not of a necessarily distinguished  nature but representative of the  time  they were done. Manners  was at the right place, at the right time in history for his  ‘type’ to be  well used.  He was sincere on the screen; bordering on the corny at times, yet that was the work he was  given in the pictures  being made in Precode Hollywood. He will forever be  Jonathan Harker to many,  however, I personally liked  him as  the lovable  heel  who lures small town girl Loretta Young to the big city  in THEY CALL IT SIN (1932).

In later  years  David Manners  painted and studied philosophy,  publishing his reflections  in  Look Through: An Evidence of Self  Discovery.  He passed away at the age of 98 at the Health Center of a retirement community in Santa Barbara. His ashes were taken and scattered at Rancho Yucca Loma in San Bernadino county. The wandering spirit and restless intellect of David Manners had finally found a place to rest.

 

WATCHING FILM THE ‘RETRO’ WAY

When you have your PVR loaded with holiday film fare  or you pop in your favorite  disks in what ever format you choose for yourself or guests; just cast your mind back to another way to watch. When PVR was still the “stuff dreams are made of,” those of us that wanted to see a certain style of film had to wait for these pictures in the theaters. Read about them in various magazines which contained those studio stills. Later one would scan the TV GUIDE or equivalent publication that we would buy each week or came with the local paper for our favorite titles and stars. In between-for those lucky enough to have the resources-were companies that sold copies of films in 8 mm, 16mm and later Super 8 formats for home viewing. This was the entry point for some for which film became a serious hobby and launched careers.

Super 8 and 8 mm were available through the mail from companies such as BLACKHAWK FILMS, KEN FILMS and CASTLE FILMS.   BLACKHAWK FILMS was founded in 1927 in Galesburg, Illinois by one Ken D. Eastin who made local advertising films for businesses, shot news events for Newsreels and sold independent 35 mm prints for home projectors. When 16 mm sound happened in 1937, Eastin moved out of his parents’ house and set up shop in Davenport, Iowa.  He operated a rental business till 1957 when film slowed due to the advent of television. Eastin took on a business partner, Martin Phelan, who had a background in direct mail and management.

BLACKHAWK FILMS began producing a monthly newsprint catalog listing its releases for purchase in 1947 and continued up to 1981.  Consumer interest grew in the products from Hal Roach studios, authorized editions of the Keystone Comedies and railroad films of the vanishing era of steam; of which Eastin was a lifelong fan.  Soon more vintage comedies, dramas, westerns, documentaries, and cartoons were added.  The staple items were always the great silent epics and stars of the day plus rare pictures made to order in the 8 mm gauge for home viewing. BLACKHAWK FILMS changed with the times when Eastin and Phelan sold to Lee Enterprises, and began selling Betamax and RCA video disk formats via mail order. The company again changed hands in 1981 to National Telefilm, and renamed REPUBLIC PICTURES. It closed completely in 1987.

 

 

I remember getting on the mailing list for the monthly newsprint catalogue for BLACKHAWK FILMS. Each month I would leaf through the paper, read the stories and look at the pictures; never daring to order as I recall it was around 200.00 dollars for a print of something like BIRTH OF A NATION in Super 8. The company I did have the most contact with since I was interested in horror films was CASTLE FILMS.  You could read the advertisements in the back of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine and wonder why they never would ship to Canada. One day they started shipping to my country of residence – opening up a whole new world.

CASTLE FILMS was founded in 1924 by Newsreel camera man Eugene Castle, who produced advertising and business films in California. In 1931 the office moved to New York City, branching out into 8mm and 16 mm films for home use. The first home movie Castle shot was the Hindenburg explosion, progressing to NEWS PARADE, followed by sports films, animal adventures and old time movies. In 1947 United World Films (which was related to UNIVERSAL STUDIOS) purchased a stake in CASTLE FILMS. This gave it access to its vault of pictures – the comedies of ABBOTT AND COSTELLO, THE HORROR FILMS, plus the products of Walter Lanz Animation studios (Woody woodpecker, Andy Panda, Oswald Rabbit and Chilly Willy Cartoons).

When MCA purchased UNIVERSAL in the 1960s, CASTLE FILMS gained access to the pre 1950 PARAMOUNT PICTURES sound pictures that were owned by MCA’S television division.  You had pictures like the Hopalong Cassidy series, Marx Brothers films and work by Cecil B De Mille.  Even NASA footage of space fights were available for the home projector.

KEN FILMS had a different approach to selling film to the home consumer by actually having their product in department stores. KEN FILMS worked out of Fort Lee, New Jersey, which did not stop them from having film boxes for sale in Canada in places like Kmart. KEN released silent digests of American International Pictures horror films and cartoons, along with a number of Warner Brother’s titles.

In 1973, KEN signed a deal with Paramount to release a large number of 200’ and 50’ silent versions of some of their most popular features, starting with two parts of “The Greatest Show on Earth”, “The Ten Commandments” and “Samson & Delilah.” KEN FILMS made the big jump into color and sound in 1974 with 200’ versions of all 5 “Planet of the Apes” movies.  They also put out a large number of 200’ color/sound American International products during this period.  The highlight of the release of the 200’ color and sound was “Star Wars” while the film was still playing in theaters!

BLACKHAWK FILMS. CASTLE FILMS,  and KEN FILMS flourished in the between years of the home video revolution and the format battles between VHS and Beta.  It may seem quaint today as one can pretty much find anything on specialty channels and your personal PVR. I am sure we all have stories of trying to see film in those days before the tech.  For many, these releases were often the first time (apart from television and film society screens) that you saw the pictures you were interested in seeing.  A whole new world.

‘SOME DWIGHT FRYE’S OR NAISHED’?

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The Horror pictures of the Golden age are could be like “Diner food’ to  ‘ serious film goers or  Movie gourmets.’  If that is  so then  side dishes you get with a  diner meal add to the being filled up.  If the lead actors and central story are the ‘meat ‘ of the picture then those that circulate in and around that make  it  stronger.  Dwight Frye and J. Carol Naish were two of the very best  not only in the Horrors but also as actors outside that.

Two actors  with similar career paths – J  Carol Naish and  Dwight Frye – make for an interesting yet divergent story.  Both actors played hunchbacks in the Universal Monster cycle of films.  Naish’s work as Daniel in the 1944  monster rally HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN  was a sympathetic, loving, seeking- a- cure fellow. Dwight Frye’ s Fritz was the sadistic torturer of the Karloff Frankenstein Monster in 1931. Naish and Frye were bound together not only by that but by type casting throughout their careers.

A house is not a home without a few friends. This is exactly what Universal Studios did when they gave us the HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944).

In HOUSE OF  FRANKESTEIN there is a sequence when we head to the Village of Frankenstein where Daniel rescues a Gypsy girl Ilonka (Elena Verdugo), and where the Frankenstein monster (Glenn  Strange) and Larry Talbot, the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.)are both revived. Each is promised a cure as they head to Nieman’s lab in Vasaria.  Daniel falls in love with the Gypsy girl only to find later that she had eyes for the tormented Talbot, who wants to die.  Whips fly, the Wolf Man rampages, and love rears its ugly head in the form of a silver bullet along with the skull of the revived stumbling monster in a climax that has that old sinking feeling.

Well worth a look for Boris Karloff, leering with his voice (Daniel’s death scream is actually Karloff from Son of Frankenstein) and J. Carol Naish’s sensitive, if limited, work as Daniel.

Naish had tremendous dramatic stage experience from Paris and New York in a variety of roles. Limited screen time and playing such nefarious characters  as the ‘evil foreigner’ in low budget serials and  the CHARLIE CHAN film series due to his exotic looks put him in limited company.

 

He was employed yes, someone you would see in many films, but not know his name.  Naish also had a rich speaking voice and narrated many  pictures  without screen credit.  Last role that I saw him in was  as the wheel chaired   Doctor Frankenstein aka Doctor Duryea  in the cheapie FRANKENSTEIN VS DRACULA in 1971.

Limited work seems to be the order of the day with the career of the one and only Dwight Frye. We all know him as Fritz, the perfectly demented hunchbacked  assistant in  James Whale’s  1931 FRANKENSTEIN, and  Renfield in DRACULA from the same year.  Still some will know him from the Alice Cooper song simply called  THE BALLAD OF DWIGHT FRYE from the early release ‘LOVE IT TO DEATH.’   Even more so then Naish, Dwight Frye has become a cult figure of the Universal horror films playing  crazy, unstable individuals often on the verge of cracking as personified by Frye’s unique high pitched delivery.

 

Naish had a longer and  more varied career then Frye as the latter found himself pigeon holed in roles that he detested. Boris Karloff once said that he didn’t mind being typecast as it kept him working when others had faded. Frye yearned for the success and the versatility he showed in Broadway productions;  beginning as a juvenile lead progressing to larger and varied roles including originating the role of The Son in Luigi Piradello’s 1922 production SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR for director Brock Pemberton, with whom he became a favorite.  I remember this play as it is one of the  staples one studies  if one is in a theater history or drama class.  All these roles Frye did went unnoticed by Hollywood. His roles  were either viciously chopped  as in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939), when  the production was  switched from Technicolor to black and white to being  truncated as in the subplot of Karl  in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935).

If you are an actor in a genre or have a certain look is what happens when that look or genre goes out of style – which happened to Frye. He was not a versatile as Karloff was in terms of comedy, nor did he have a voice which lent itself to the narration of mystery stories and children’s books.  It is not fair to say he was not as good  as Karloff as Frye was never given a chance.   This lack of chance doomed him like Lugosi, who was reported to have never taken the time to learn English but to have learned lines phonetically in the beginning.  Dwight Frye,  like Lugosi, came from the stage where they played a great variety of characters yet were trapped in the public persona’s of Boogeymen.

 

Frye played a succession of bit roles often uncredited in gangster pictures, mystery thrillers and of course, horror pictures of the B variety.  This forced him to work outside of  film as an aircraft drafts person for Lockheed. Frye was quoted as saying (in the 1930s, regarding his typecasting):

If God is good, I will be able to play comedy, in which I was featured on Broadway        for eight seasons and in which no producer of motion pictures will give me a chance!         And please God, may it be before I go screwy playing idiots, half-wits and lunatics on     the talking screen!

Dwight Frye was a Christian Scientist and concealed a heart condition that claimed his life while on a crowded bus returning home from seeing a  film with his son. Ironically, Frye had just been cast in a big budget picture ‘WILSON’  about the life of Woodrow Wilson, to be directed by Henry King  in the role of Secretary of War Newton Taylor due to his physical resemblance.  It could have been a role that finally broke Dwight Frye out of the horror mold.

J Carol Naish and Dwight Frye both played hunchbacked characters in the Universal Horror films and both lived with missed opportunities. One wonders how many other actors were given the same treatment. There are people that made entire careers out of playing policeman, bar tenders, storekeepers, judges, reporters and, in this case, lunatics.   Naish’s and Frye’s roles  in film were inherited later on up to the  1970’s by Elisha Cook Jr, who became the  eternal “fall guy.”  Cook was  either killed off early, supplied the red herring in a  mystery, or was simply the stooge in a bigger plot. The pictures these and other actors made are in are richer for their contributions.   I  do  enjoy well done ‘Diner Food’.

THE LEMON DROP KID (1951)

I remember the usual films, THE GRINCH THAT STOLE CHRISTMAS with Boris Karloff; CHARLIE BROWN’S CHRISTMAS with the sad tree that tips over when an ornament is put on it.   The skating sequences from THE BISHOPS’S WIFE with David Niven, Cary Grant and Loretta Young are also part of holiday memories.  I still feel the cold slush on my legs when George Baily (Mr. Jimmy Stewart) is running down Main Street in ITS A WONDERFUL LIFE.  Bing Crosby singing the song “White Christmas” in HOLIDAY INN (1942) always reminds me of the Second World War.   The  picture I find myself futilely searching for each year to be shown is THE LEMON DROP KID (1951)

THE LEMON DROP KID (1951), directed by Edmund Beloin and Frank Taslin is a wonderful, warm piece of underrated holiday fare .  It has Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell; both in fine voice and wise cracking best.  The story concerns the Lemon Drop kid, (who gets his name from a fondness for the candy) persuading  gangster moll Brainy Baxter to not bet on a horse that ends up winning ten thousand dollars.  Angry Moose Moran who owns a casino wants it paid in full.

 

LEMON DROP KID (1951) is a comedy remake of the 1934 film of the same title with Lee Tracy, whom I remember as the brilliant, double talking, fast dealing publicity man from BLONDE BOMBSHELL (1933) with Jean Harlow.   Hope, Maxwell, and Jane Darwell play it all for sentimental laughs as the schemes build to get the $10,000 owed Moose Moran (Fred Clarke).  Lloyd Nolan does a turn and adds some Noir/Gangster presence.     William Frawley- who would go onto fame as Fred Mertze on I LOVE LUCY- makes an appearance as ‘Gloomy Willie,’ also appeared in the 1934 version in a different role.

Holiday sentiment runs high in the sequence when the old street  woman lead Nellie Thursday ( Jane Darwell) are given a place to sleep out of the snow on mattresses on crap tables in Moose Moran’s casino.

You also get a glimpse of the original Damon Runyon grittier feel of the original story and the first film when we see crusty New York folk walking, joining along with Hope and Maxwell as they introduce the world to the holiday classic song SILVER BELLS. THE LEMON DROP KID (1951) features good songs, snappy dialogue, good writing that shows even the holidays can make a good natured hustler into something warm and friendly.  I remember this film from my childhood which makes it a shame it isn’t shown as often as it should be perhaps that what makes it special.

FANG MALE : A LOOK AT THE HORROR MEDIA

The following words are a shameless plug as they appear in my current ebook and soon to be print SCREEN AND SCREEN AGAIN.    Not much change in Halloween which has just passed us by except the people.  Who would have dreamed of a  24 hour channel for Classic film that would thrive and bring people together.   However that channel in question does reflect societies  slightly homogenized look at Art as it excludes most of the world from its BACK LOT services due administration costs.  These  matters have not been dealt with in several years prompting on to think of BACK LOT as closed door community.

Television has taken over from film as the chief ground-breaking media to deliver horror.  The   large amount of supernatural television series which many know already, gets the viewer every week or every month with new tales of terror.  The monsters have progressed a long way from the days of Shock Theater.  Then of course, one has the rise of Specialty channels bringing content of various styles to be viewed anywhere, anytime. No hunting in the TV guides for these titles.

Film all over the world showcased various horror tales.  Released in sub-titled or the hideous dubbed versions brings stories from India, Mexico, Iran, Latin America, and Europe to your theatre or DVD/Blu-Ray player. These pictures often touch on dark areas beyond North American subjects, as they are often made by independent film makers.  Indeed, independent film-making as a process, plus sites such as Vimo tube and others, deliver these creative and not-so-creative examples right to your device of choice.  Conventions where horror fans get together are often flooded with film entries and fiction entries as these gatherings become showcases for new work.  The trouble with this flood of material being that sometimes there is a lack of knowledge of film-making skills such as pace of actors, and often a dependence on creating special make-up effects for the sake of doing them because they are cool.  I suggest that somewhere out there a new crop of film people will emerge.

Mainstream horror is another matter, as it tends to concentrate more on creation of franchises. I had watched THE NUN (2018) having no idea it was part of the Insidious franchise.

The lowly newsprint magazines, with apologizes to SCARY MONSTERS (which is a darn fine magazine), have evolved into glossy, large-format books.  Magazines that disappeared from print have made their return.  The electronic magazine, which I think works more than the eBook, has opened up the forum for writers and coverage is at an all-time high.

Comics and graphic novels have blossomed, with horror titles growing as monthly stories. Even established characters such as Archie have their own horror series — which is actually pretty cool with Jughead as a werewolf.

Books of studies of the genre, which once only went up to the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974), now abound on shelves.  Authors such as Gregory William Mank, Jonathan Rigby, Kim Newman, and David Skal have produced wonderfully researched books on actors, behind the scenes books, and studies.  These join the dog-eared copies of Carlos Claren’s AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE HORROR FILM, Drake Douglas’s HORRORS! and Dennis Gifford’s  MOVIE MONSTERS on shelves of fans, along with many others by current film people.   Academic courses in Gothic Literature and the Horror Film are taught in some schools using the seminal collection of essays called HORROR FILM READER by Alain Silver and James Ursini as one text book

SCREEN AND SCREEN AGAIN is available on all Amazon and Barnes and Noble sites