Saturday, May 21, 2016

100 Days of Old Movies: Instalment 3

Here is the next lot of my 100 Days of Old Movies sketches for the 100 Day Project:

21: The Little Princess (1939)

My Daddy has to go away, but he'll return most any day. Any moment I may see my Daddy coming back to me.

For a melodramatic kid's movie you really can't go past a 30s Hollywood adaption of a Victorian children's book, starring Shirley Temple. This was her first technicolour film, and she stars as Sara Crewe, a child raised in India and sent to an expensive girl's boarding school in London while her father is away at war. When he is reported as dead and bankrupt, Sarah is forced to work as a servant in the school to pay off her tuition. 

This movie is in the public domain, so you can watch it on Youtube here.

22, 23 & 24: Two Girls and a Sailor (1944)

– I've always let you have anything of mine you want, but you can't have him!
– I've got him. 

Two Girls and a Sailor is a propaganda movie from WW2 - thin plot, lots and lots of cameos. Van Johnson is a sailor (and also a millionaire) who sees the Deyo Sisters performing and falls in love with Jean (Gloria deHaven), sending her anonymous orchids every night. The sisters host parties for servicemen in their apartment every night after their act, and one day they see him and invite him along, not knowing who he is, and he meets Patsy (June Allyson) who mentions that they wish they had a place big enough to let all the servicemen in. So he gives them a warehouse (still anonymously) and decorates it, and it becomes a big draw, with famous names entertaining there every night (Gracie Allen, Jose Iturbi, Lena Horne, Harry James and his Orchestra, Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra....) Meanwhile the sisters try to find out who their benefactor is, while poor Van Johnson realises he initially fell for the wrong sister. Awkward. There is also a dream sequence with a fashion parade that ends in a catfight, because why not?

So it doesn't have much actual plot, but I've always been fond of it. I don't actually require much plot in my movies...

25 & 26: The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934)


They seek him here
They seek him there
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere
Is he in Heaven
Or is he in Hell?
That damned elusive Pimpernel.

Merle Oberon and Leslie Howard make their second appearances in my lineup, this time in The Scarlet Pimpernel, my favourite Pimpernel adaption. (I've read most of the books, they are excellent brainless it's-too-hot-to-move summertime reading.)

Leslie Howard is Sir Percy Blakeney, aka The Scarlet Pimpernel - a fop in daily life, to mask the fact that he is actually a decisive and audacious hero rescuing aristocrats from the guillotine over in Paris. And Merle Oberon is his fairly brainless wife Marguerite, who has no knowledge of her husband's adventures, and, to save the life of her brother, accidentally sells him out. Drama!

This too is in Public Domain, and you can watch it at the Internet Archive (or search for it on Youtube, whichever you like) 

27 & 28: The Gay Divorcee (1934)


– I've just had the most embarrassing experience. A man tore my dress off!
– Oooh, anyone we know?

Top Hat is generally regarded as the quintessential Fred and Ginger movie, but I think I prefer the earlier The Gay Divorcee myself (Not that I don't like Top Hat). It was their first movie together as stars (following their appearance in Flying Down to Rio) and is full of mistaken identity. 

Fred Astaire is a dancer who meets Ginger Rogers and is instantly smitten. She's not so keen, especially after he rips her dress. Later, in transpires that she needs a divorce, and has hired Fred's friend Edward Everett Horton to get it for her. He's arranged for a co-respondent to meet her at a hotel, and gives her a pass code so she can recognise him. Naturally, Fred gives the code by accident, and it escalates from there....

29 & 30: Footlight Parade

I played a pair of deuces like four aces, and they paid!

I love a snappy Pre-Code Warner Brothers musical, and this is one of my favourites. We get Busby Berkeley sequences, James Cagney tap dancing and Joan Blondell. All good things. Cagney stages musical reviews, and his job is in jeopardy when talking pictures arrive, so his wife walks out on him. He realises that the musical prologues theatres were toying with putting between acts of films could be cheaper if they were staged once and then travelled to lots of different theatres - this is big business and it takes off. He's got business partners, a sassy secretary (Blondell) and a contract stating he has to put on three new prologues a week, a gold-digging fiancee and a wife who 'forgot' to get her divorce. Cagney and Blondell were a great team and made many movies together, and as this is a Pre-Code movie, she gets some great lines. 

Here's the trailer. And here's the third of the big Berkeley finale numbers, Shanghai Lil. I love this piece of music, and had to track down the sheet music. I think I eventually ran it to earth in Ohio or somewhere. And it's mine now!

Stay tuned for the next instalment when I reach #40!

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