My distaste for Leslie Howard, Norma Shearer and (to a lesser extent) Fredric March, are well-documented in my various reviews of their work. So color me surprised when I settled down to watch Smilin’ Through, a 1930s romance now available via Warner Archive. The direction and acting suffer from routine issues plaguing movies till about the mid-30s (such as highly overwrought acting and soppy direction), but the sensitive telling of the story does enough to temper the movies faults.
After devoting over a year and a half to reviewing every Disney animated film, I was ready to put Disney behind me, for awhile. I recently became one-half of the Walt Sent Me podcast (available to listen to now) and our first featured film was The Reluctant Dragon. The Reluctant Dragon isn’t considered one of the 53 movies Disney considers part of their animated legacy. Odd, considering it contains an equal amount of live action to animation, on par with the later package films. The movie is gimmicky in its depiction of a happy Disney environment during a time when it was anything but, but it depicts a moment in time at the Walt Disney Studios we’ll never witness again, and that makes all the difference.
Danny Kaye returns in a film cementing several of the tropes he’s commonly identified with: pairing with actress Virginia Mayo and playing a dual role. Wonder Man is a diversionary picture about gangsters and two brothers mimicking Goofus and Gallant. There’s a fair bit of humor where Kaye’s concerned, but the overemphasis on musical numbers in the third act dampens the impact of the established narrative which is woefully underdeveloped. However, you can’t fault song and dance numbers when the delightful Vera-Ellen is on-screen.
I’m unsure what came first: a desire to watch Gene Tierney in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, or if it was inspired by reading her biography. Either way, you’re getting a double dose of Tierney this week, and 20th Century Fox‘s recent Blu-ray release kicks us off. The bittersweet romance between a widow and a ghostly sea captain would be comfortable alongside the other supernatural hybrids I’ve reviewed, which is good because this on par with the best like Blithe Spirit, although reduced in the comedy department. Coupled with Fox’s continued excellence in transferring their DVDs to Blu-ray, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir should have a home in your collection.
This review originally ran December 25th, 2011. This is still a must-watch as many times as you can.
I recently watched the Ron Howard remake for this month a few days back and was horrified by what had been done to this great special. Thankfully, rewatching this has made me all but forget that horrible movie! I don’t have any best/worst of the month since I’d seen most of these movies previously, but I’d say Ron Howard’s Grinch was the worst thing I’ve seen.