On "No Down Payment": Anne said...This is what makes me wonder if Jeffrey Hunter and Patricia Owens'scharacters had even consumated thier marriageThe kid's got a broken radio, Jeff pulls out a screw driver and sets to work.Tony Randall gets smarmy with Jeff's wife and he's a frozen bystander...if Tony was mashing a radio, I think Jeff's character would have sprun into action. March 9, 2013
On "Trooper Hook": Vienna said...Wonderful review ! I haven't seen TROOPER HOOK for a long time but hope it becomes available on DVD. You describe Joel and Barbara's characters so well. An unusual role for Barbara. I guess she chose to do it for that reason. March 11, 2013
Anne said...Thank you for writing about this little gemOne can see this film on the encore west channel now and then and it's astonishingly good. With a budget not enough for a modern office pastry cart, it shows what can be done with excellent writing and acting....and directing. I love how we see the tiny stage from afar, then we see it though Nanches legs, we are right behind him, and we now know he's on their trail...it makes him almost a gonzilla of a threatChildren: let Mr. McCrea and Ms Stanwyck show you how it's done.They are hotter across a dusty feed store than many buck necked couples in love scenes today.March 7, 2013
On "Any Number Can Play": Vienna said...I love this film. Great cast, though I hate seeing Audrey Totter so totally wasted. All Audrey seemed to do was stand around with a glass in one hand and cigarette in the other.I thought Alexis Smith did well ,playing a woman whom I 'm sure was meant to be older than Alexis who was probably about 30 at the time.Great to see Mary Astor though,again, what a small role. And Marjorie Rambeau is always a joy.It could have been a play, with the only sets the gambling club and Gable's house.An unusual role for Gable and he was convincing.March 1, 2013
On Anita Sharp-Bolster: Vienna said...I've just see Anita in THE LONDON BLACKOUT MURDERS and she is so good as another battle-axe character , but with a touch of comedy . Nice tribute. Thanks.http//:dancing lady39.wordpress.com February 2, 2013
On Victor Jory - On Stage and Screen: Vienna said...Thanks for great tribute to Victor Jory whom I like, especially in a couple of films where he isn't the villain! In FIGHTING MAN OF THE PLAINS, Victor does his best to help Randolph Scott and becomes a good friend to Scott's character. Such a contrast to Victor's usual roles. I also liked him in a little B, THE UNKNOWN GUEST where he is the leading manI had no idea Victor and Alexis Smith did two plays together - thanks for the information. Oh to have seen them!January 24, 2013
On And Then There Were None: Ryan said...I bought this years ago on DVD, and it's still my favorite movie version of this story. The cast was perfect, and to tell you the truth, though I love the book, I almost prefer this ending. I think it's the hopeless romantic in me.February 19, 2013
“Callaway Went Thataway” (1951), continues our look at old movies as filler for programming on early TV, and on the “Hopalong” Cassidy phenomenon in particular. Not that Hoppy is actually mentioned, in fact the film ends with a careful disclaimer to that effect.
Fred MacMurray and Dorothy McGuire play ad executives who are making money hand over fist with their latest property, the redistribution of old “Smokey Callaway” B-movies to the hungry TV market. Even more, the merchandizing of Smokey Callaway toys, etc. But, the network execs decide this is such a good thing, they want to hire the cowpoke to make some brand new films. The problem is, Callaway is nowhere to be found. Enter a young look-alike, played by Howard Keel.
We are first introduced to the Hoppy, er, that is, Callaway phenomenon, through the montage of small children glued to the TV, watching their hero’s every move. This includes a couple of poker-faced young African-American kids, who, as discussed in this previous post on Herb Jeffries, were given little by either Hollywood or TV in the way of a black hero to emulate. Clearly, we are shown that Callaway appeals to everybody in this democratic republic. It’s a cute shot, that can’t help but ring hollow. Grownups love him, too, including a fawning Natalie Schafer, who plays the wife of the big TV boss. You may remember her as Lovey in “Gilligan’s Island.”
The team of MacMurray and McGuire are now up a creek, because the real Callaway disappeared to a life of dissipation years ago, and the look-alike cowboy they hire to play him wants nothing to do with TV. He is sincere, honest, naïve, and gentle. Howard Keel, with his choir boy haircut and soft speech, is adorable, and it’s kind of amazing to see him later on in the film playing the real Callaway, an obnoxious, womanizing boozer, with the same face, the same clothes, and yet actually appearing different. His voice booms and his face actually looks puffier, his hard, dim eyes glaring with suspicion and resentment.
But, until they find the real Callaway, they must utilize his erstwhile double, and on a coast to coast train trip, McGuire tries to impress upon Mr. Keel how important Smokey Callaway is as a role model to children. Along the way, he falls in love with her, but she is reluctant to submit to his aw-shucks charm.
She and MacMurray have that 1930s screwball comedy rapport with each other, but it’s somewhat forced and we are given to understand there is no romantic involvement between them. She undergoes a conversion when she falls in love with Howard Keel and decides the ad racket has gotten too deceitful for her. Mr. MacMurray never undergoes such a conversion, remaining a likeable, but undependable trickster to the end. MacMurray was so good playing guys on the knife edge of good and bad.
On their coast-to-coast trip we get some rear screen project of Niagara Falls, a lot of train interior shots, which is always lovely, but their stop in San Francisco appears to be really filmed there. There is also a bit at the end filmed at the Los Angeles Coliseum, so we might wonder what kind of build-up this movie had and what expense went into making it.
There are even a few star cameos. Esther Williams and her sons accost Keel in a hotel lobby, and later he meets Elizabeth Taylor and Clark Gable at the Mocambo, both of whom he greets effusively and neither of whom he recognizes.
Mr. Keel, who fairly hero-worships the (he thinks) saintly character he is playing, decides to set up a charitable foundation for children with his salary. But then, the real Smokey shows up like an evil twin, and wants all the moolah and all the swag that the team of MacMurray and McGuire have been generating. There is the inevitable fight scene between the good and evil Smokeys, and because they are wearing the same clothes, we don’t know who is who.
Finally, the real one learns of the charitable foundation set up by his look-alike, and bails out of the whole Smokey Callaway franchise. He doesn’t want any part of it if he can’t keep the money himself. The look-alike gets to keep the job.
Fred MacMurray tosses off a funny line with all seriousness, “What’s the Smokey Callaway Foundation? Have we got a girdle tie-in?”
We end with a rousing appearance at the Coliseum, and Miss McGuire’s 11th-hour commitment to being the sweetheart of a TV cowboy.
Both these films, “Dreamboat” and “Callaway Went Thataway” harken back to the screwball comedies of a previous generation, but they land squarely in the present, using it as surely as any socially conscious dramatic film of that era did to bring reality to the movies. “Callaway” ends with the interesting disclaimer, as much a signpost to the era as the fake signpost it was printed on. (The opening screen titles on a similar signpost remind me of “My Darling Clementine.”)
“This picture was made in the spirit of fun, and was meant in no way to detract from the wholesome influence, civic mindedness and the many charitable contributions of Western idols of our American youth, or to be a portrayal of any of them.”
A case of methinks they doth protest too much?
Actually, Hopalong Cassidy, is the real hero on whom this movie is based. You might remember his showing up Boris Karloff in the 1950 Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, as discussed in this previous post. From the book “Total Television” by Alex M. Neal (Penguin Books, NY, 1996, 4th edition), we have a few stats on our hero. Hoppy made 66 B-movies from 1935 to 1948. William Boyd, who played Hoppy, cannily acquired the TV rights to his films, and re-edited them to fit 30 and 60-minute timeslots. According to author Mr. Neal, “thus, he was in a position to offer a readily available source of action programming to the rapidly expanding postwar television station market.”
His show ran from 1949 to 1951 on NBC, and then continued in syndication from 1952 to 1954. Hoppy was perfect for the new medium and the black and white sets: he dressed in black, and rode a white horse. Anybody remember Hoppy’s horse’s name?
Meet Me in Nuthatch - A publicity stunt to attract tourists to a small dying town results in the entire community turning the clock back to 1904. It is local Christmas tree farmer Everett Campbell’s idea, after watching the film “Meet Me in St. Louis,” his young daughter’s new favorite movie. What begins as half practical joke and half desperate ploy initiates the rebirth of Nuthatch, Massachusetts. Tourists do come, along with the media. To Everett’s dismay, his campaign to save their community results in also attracting representatives of a chain of theme parks who want to buy Nuthatch 1904. Everett now stands to lose his town in a way he never imagined, and the community is divided on which alternate future to choose. A local drug dealer, the longtime enemy of Everett, may hold their future in his hands unless Everett can pull off his most spectacular, and dangerous, practical joke.
“…a comforting, pleasant read that stays with you even after the last page is turned. After finishing the book, I found myself still musing about the relationships and how they'd changed and progressed. This book was a nice, hot chocolate sort of read.” Grace Krispy, "MotherLode" blog book review.
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