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we're chilling

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up the stepsWe have a new refrigerator! I wrote last week about the plumbing problem that delayed installation. On Friday we had a plumber come out and install a shut-off valve in the water line, and I rescheduled the installation for today.

Turns out the plumber was also supposed to replace the copper water line with -- I don't know what. Something besides copper. Today's installer told me that they are instructed not to hook up to a copper line. Because copper can't handle being bent or twisted, and people sometimes have to move refrigerators around, and the copper line can crack and leak. He did connect the water line; he just had to write on the form that he did not hook it up. He was nice about it; he said "Put it this way: if you get a leak, it's on you." I laughed and said "I promise I won't come after you!"

It seems like a communication failure all around: the first installer was very unclear about what exactly was the problem. He just said "we can't hook up without a shut-off valve and we can't hook up to this kind of line." He didn't at all explain what that meant and I didn't understand that there were 2 problems, not just one. My mistake was not asking him to be more clear. He said that the plumber would know what to do and I was like, um ... okay, whatever you say! Big mistake. I should have asked him to draw me a picture, or googled it after he left, or something.

The plumber's mistake was not knowing that refrigerator manufacturers nowadays are anti-copper pipe. When the plumber installed the shut-off valve I said, now they told me that they couldn't hook up to this kind of line, do you have to replace the line? And he said no, this is standard, they should have no problem with it. And because I hadn't bothered to find out what the first installer was talking about, I didn't know that wasn't correct. Today's installer told me that this is the way it is now, and we should probably get the line replaced when we can. For the dual reason that 1) if and when we ever replace this fridge, we'll run into the same problem; 2) if we accidently push the fridge back over the line, it could crack and then we'd have a real mess on our hands.

through the doorSo, mistakes were made. I'm not too upset about it because we have our new fridge! Today's installers were great. They had this crazy harness thing with a big wide strap that connected them together. They slipped the strap under the base of the fridge, ratcheted the strap to shorten it, then stood up and carried it between them. Really cool.

They had to remove the fridge door (though they left the freezer door in place), the sliding thing on the screen door, and the entire kitchen door. The kitchen door went right back together; the sliding thing on the screen door did not. When they unscrewed one end of it, the other end came apart. And the three of us couldn't figure out how to put it back together. Georg said he'd been thinking about replacing the screen door anyway. So we can look at this as an opportunity.

goodbye crummy old fridgeI cannot tell you how glad I am to get rid of the old fridge. Here's a little story that underscores how badly we needed a new fridge: Last week, when I thought we were getting our new fridge, I turned off the old one and dumped out the ice bin. Of course I had to turn it back on and load the food back in, but in the meantime it had a chance to warm up pretty thoroughly.

Today I went through the whole process again: load the food into coolers, turn off the fridge, dump the ice bin. I was thinking I would make a fresh pitcher of tea and fill it with ice so it would stay cool during the day. Until I looked in the ice bin and discovered that some of the ice was green. GREEN. There must have been some creeping crud growing in the ice maker, and the ice maker was always icing over because of the air leak, so when it thawed out, the melted ice must have mixed with the creeping crud and then refrozen into new ice. Horrifying. I stood there trying to remember how much ice I had used since last week, and had I looked closely at it. And also trying not to throw up. (I did not, in fact, throw up. I remembered that it had been 4-5 days since I'd had any ice, and if it was going to make me sick it would have already.)

On that appetizing note, I think I'm going to go get some ice from my new fridge.

the women

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June 9 movie: The Women. To my surprise, this movie almost fails the Bechdel test. The Bechdel test requires a movie to:

1. include at least two female characters (rule variation says they must have names)
2. who talk to each other
3. about something besides a man.

The women in The Women never talk about anything but men. I only found the following conversations:

  • The first scene of the movie pans through a health spa, eavesdropping on snippets of many anonymous conversations, many of which are not about men.
  • The main characters gather for lunch early in the movie and trade barbs, some of which are not about men.
  • Mary (Norma Shearer), her mother and her daughter watch vacation movies and talk about the vacation.
  • Mary's mother and her maid exchange a couple of sentences about the fact that the mother hates Mary's friends.

The only conversation that clearly passes the test is the one with the vacation movies. One conversation in a 133 minute movie with dozens of female characters.

I decided not to include the Bechdel test in every movie I write up, because it's too easy to fall into thinking it means more than it does. It's not the ultimate test of whether a movie is sexist or not. It's just ... interesting. And when the results are interesting, as in this movie, I will mention it.

perversion for profit


June 5 movie: Perversion for Profit. Oh. My. God. This is amazing. It's a 1965 anti-pornography propaganda film. Financed by Charles Keating and narrated by reporter George Putnam, who delivers the entire script as if he was anchoring coverage of a war in a foreign country.

The whole thing is Putnam standing in front of a map of the US, talking about the horrors of smut. Interspersed with images of the smut in question. Which is hilariously tame, of course. 45 year old girlie magazines look so quaint and wholesome compared to modern porn. All the women in the photos had black bars over their eyes and naughty bits, which made the whole thing even funnier. I wasn't sure why they looked so funny until Georg figured out that it was reminscent of the "Full Frontal Nudity" sketch from Monty Python. The one where the dirty old man keeps trying to look at naked women, and there's always an umbrella or mini car or something blocking the view of the dainty bits.

Georg also pointed out something odd: Playboy was completely absent from the movie. We saw the covers of dozens, maybe hundreds of different smut magazines, most of which wouldn't have existed without Playboy, but no Playboy. No idea why.

Things I learned from this movie:

  • Once a normal person becomes perverted, it's almost impossible for them to return to a normal understanding of sexuality.
  • The women in nudist magazines are not actual members of "nudist cults," rather they are paid professional models!
  • Bodybuilding magazines can make you gay, even if you only read them for bodybuilding tips.
  • The ancient Egyptian culture collapsed because of moral decay of the same type that was corrupting America in the 1960s.
  • We have a Constitutional right to be protected from obscenity.

Describing Perversion for Profit is no substitute for watching it. Thank you, Youtube!
Part I:

direct link if embed doesn't work

Part II:

direct link if embed doesn't work

where eagles dare

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May 31 movie: Where Eagles Dare. WWII thriller starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. It comes across like a Guns of Navarone knock-off, which is kind of exactly what it is. If you thought Guns of Navarone was great except that the plot made way too much sense, Where Eagles Dare is the movie for you.

I'm kind of sorry I watched this. On previous viewings I saw it as a fun action movie with some plot flaws. Unfortunately the problems become more glaring with each viewing. This time I was shouting "What the???" and "That's ridiculous!!" at the screen over and over. It's just not a movie that holds up to repeat viewing.

hang 'em high

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May 31 movie: Hang 'Em High. This was okay. Not the best Eastwood movie I've ever seen -- too preachy for my taste. Still, it had some great scenes. I'm not sorry I watched it.

the good, the bad and the ugly

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May 31 movie: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Yesterday was Clint Eastwood's 80th birthday and TCM showed Eastwood movies all day. This is one of the best. I read that Eastwood didn't want to do the movie. He wasn't crazy about the script, he didn't like that his character was one of three main characters rather than the only star, and he was concerned that Eli Wallach was going to outshine him. He also didn't get along with Sergio Leone and never made another movie with him -- in fact Eastwood turned down the part played by Charles Bronson in Once Upon a Time in the West. Which I have to say, if Eastwood only wanted to be in movies where he was the star, then he was right to turn down that part. Bronson is fantastic but the movie belongs to Henry Fonda.

I also have to say that Arch Stanton would be the best pseudonym ever. Even better than Astro-Glo Bronze. I might start using it. You heard it here first; if you ever encounter someone online using the name Arch Stanton, it's me. Unless you meet an Arch Stanton who's an asshole. In that case, it's someone else.

when ladies meet

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May 17 movie: When Ladies Meet. I adore this movie and never miss an opportunity to watch it. It's a love triangle which does a surprisingly good job of presenting both women's point of view. All the principals are great: Joan Crawford, Greer Garson, Robert Taylor and Herbert Marshall. Whenever I watch this I feel like there are two movies happening at once: the one they're telling us about, and another one right under the surface, which overlaps but isn't quite the same. That complexity is what I love about this movie.

[When Ladies Meet passes the Bechdel test. Even though the entire movie was about romance, and there are only 3 female characters (which is almost half the cast), all three interact with each other and talk about other things besides men.]

the benny goodman story

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May 17 movie: The Benny Goodman Story. I've seen a lot of Hollywood biopics from this era and this is one of the better ones in my opinion. It's surprisingly close to factual, at least compared to the ridiculous Cole Porter and Jerome Kern movies. Mostly it's worth seeing for the cast. Many of Goodman's band play themselves: Gene Krupa, Harry James, Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton all have speaking parts playing themselves, plus Kid Ory and Ben Pollack (the first bandleader Goodman ever worked for). Also includes Ziggy Elman, Stan Getz and Martha Tilton in musical performances. And as an extra treat, Sammy Davis Sr. plays Fletcher Henderson (who, alas, had died a couple of years before the movie was made).

Goodman does not appear in the movie: he's played by Steve Allen. I heard that Goodman recorded his own music and Allen just had to do the fingering during the performance scenes. Allen also played clarinet, and wanted some of his playing to be in the movie, but was offended when the filmmakers asked him to record the music for scenes where Goodman is a child just learning to play. Apparently Goodman wasn't capable of playing the unsteady notes of a beginner, so he couldn't do the childhood performances. And they thought Allen would be great at it. I can't imagine why that would have offended him.

I said the movie was surprisingly close to fact, although of course there was still a lot of fictionalizing. For one thing, the movie took place in an alternate universe where racial integration was commonplace by the mid 1920s, and when Goodman hired Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton in the mid 30s it was nothing out of the ordinary. Also, in the movie Hampton was working in a tiny seaside restaurant as the waiter, cook, and floor show when Goodman "discovered" him. In reality (I looked it up) Hampton had been a member of Louis Armstrong's orchestra and was pretty well known among west coast jazz musicians. Goodman was told by a friend to go see Hampton perform in LA. The scene with Hampton running an entire restaurant by himself was hilarious though.

I was also somewhat surprised that the movie didn't remake Goodman as a gentile. No one ever says the word "Jewish" but his parents both have Yiddish accents, his father takes him to a shul to learn music, and late in the movie his mother objects to his romance with Donna Reed because "you don't mix caviar and bagels." (by the way, Donna Reed was excellent casting for Goodman's high society wife Alice. I think the documentary said the real Alice's mother was a Vanderbilt.) Maybe because they had Goodman's cooperation they couldn't rewrite his life wholesale the way they did Cole Porter. Though, in reality he didn't get involved with Alice until long after the timeline in the movie. So they did a certain amount of changing history.

[I'm debating whether or not to include the Bechdel test in my movie write-ups. It's useful for what it is, but easy to overgeneralize in a way that is unhelpful. And I clearly don't use it as a deal-breaker the way the characters in the original strip do. So I may or may not make it a regular thing. That said, The Benny Goodman Story fails the Bechdel test. There are four women with speaking parts, but only two ever speak to each other -- Donna Reed and Goodman's mother -- and they never talk about anything but Goodman.]

the naked gun

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April 18 movie: The Naked Gun. Now this is more like it. This movie was every bit as hilarious as I remembered. And I remembered it being pretty fucking hilarious. It's so funny the theme music alone makes me laugh, though there's nothing inherently funny about the theme music. It's Leslie Nielsen who makes it work. If he had been winking at the camera, the humor would have flopped. (Come to think of it, that might be why Top Secret! didn't work for me. Val Kilmer I mean.) Nielsen treats every new lunatic development as seriously as if he were acting in a Fritz Lang noir. He reaches a pinnacle of cluelessness worthy of Margaret Dumont.

I do have to mention that OJ Simpson as the good-guy sidekick is more than a little creepy in light of real life events. That's my only complaint about this movie.

top secret!

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April 25 movie: Top Secret! This follow-up to Airplane! starred Val Kilmer and parodied spy movies and Elvis movies. I have to admit, I was dismayed by how not funny I found it. This was the second time I saw it, and I remembered it being incredibly, hilariously funny. Then again the first time I saw it in a theater, which means I was 15 years old. This time I chuckled a few times, and laughed out loud only once or twice.

There was one moment where I felt like they really missed an opportunity: the resistance are in a cafe, and two girls run up to Val Kilmer and say "Aren't you Nick Rivers? Can we have your autograph?" Trying to throw them off, he says "no, I'm Mel Tormé" and they go away dejected. Then the other resistance fighters start to suspect him of being a spy, so he puts a song on the jukebox and does a big musical number. The punchline is one of the resistance guys saying "That's not Mel Tormé."

Wouldn't it have been funny if, when they say "How do we know he's not really Mel Tormé?" the real Mel Tormé had run up and asked for his autograph? That would have been hilarious. They did a similar gag with Ethel Merman in Airplane! and I bet Tormé would have done it. He was performing a lot in those years and that's around the time when he did Night Court. And I have to say, if you're a legendary comedy team and I'm thinking up better gags on the spot while I watch your movie, there's a problem.

standing in the shadows of motown

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May 10 movie: Standing in the Shadows of Motown. Excellent documentary about the Funk Brothers, the Motown house band. They were responsible for most of Motown's hits, and I remember when I found out that all those incredible songs had been performed by one band. I was shocked. I had always assumed that each Motown singer had their own backup band.


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May 13 movie: Chained. Lesser (very lesser) Joan Crawford/Clark Gable movie. Crawford is the mistress of a rich guy who's wife won't divorce him. She meets Gable, they fall in love, she plans to leave the rich guy, but just then, dun-dun! The divorce comes through. The rich guy is so pathetically devoted to Crawford that she can't bring herself to leave him, so she dumps Gable and marries the rich guy.

Problem is, she's the worst liar in the world. Whenever anything reminds her of Gable -- and everything reminds her of him -- she falls apart, nearly crying at the opera, the races, out in traffic, you name it. Eventually the husband figures out what's going on and voluntarily lets her go. The husband's transition from "You're my entire world, I'd die without you" to "I want you to be happy. Fly and be free!" is so abrupt I got whiplash. But even more weird was the actor -- I recognized him as the rich villain in Saboteur. His delivery is exactly the same in both parts, which left me holding my breath, waiting for him to do something incredibly evil. The fact that he never did just made his gentle smile that much creepier. I guess that's why Hitchcock cast him as a villain.


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May 13 movie: Upperworld. Melodrama starring Warren William as an upper class businessman who, bored with his wife, starts an affair with showgirl Ginger Rogers. Not a great movie, largely because Rogers isn't in it enough. Still worth watching for the scenes she's in, and for Warren William. He had such star power. He always brings a movie to life. I read that he died young which cut his career short & is probably why he's not better known now.

benny goodman: king of swing

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May 15 movie: Benny Goodman: King of Swing. Good documentary of Benny Goodman. Lots of interviews with Goodman's family members, bandmates, and Goodman himself. Plus clips of many performances. My only complaint is there were no extras. It would have been nice to have the full performances that were excerpted in the movie, as extras.

I rented this because I'm doing a birthday tribute to Benny Goodman on the 30th. I also ordered a couple of books from Amazon, a biography and a discography. I'm so frustrated that they aren't here yet! This morning we went to the dump, did some yard work, and then in the hot afternoon I stayed inside and relaxed. It would have been the perfect time to start reading my books.

match your mood with westinghouse

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So I haven't posted in a long time. My excuse is that the blog had a bug and wouldn't let me post, and I didn't have time to deal with it, and I was using Facebook so much instead that it hardly seemed worth the effort. Well, recent developments on Facebook make it seem like a good idea to get the blog going again.

Let's get started with tonight's movie: Match Your Mood with Westinghouse. Outstanding! TCM has been showing a short training film overnight on Friday each week. The kind of thing AV Geeks does. This is by far the best one I've seen from TCM. It was an ad from 1968 for a refrigerator with removable panels which could be covered with veneer, textiles, wallpaper, etc. Lots of groovy parties full of groovy people who match the groovy fridges.

Rather than describe it, it's easier just to post the video. Thanks, Youtube!

direct link:

I have to say, "Astro-Glo Bronze" would be the best pseudonym ever. In fact, I may start using it. If you ever encounter someone online with that pseudonym, it's me. Glo for short. You heard it here first.


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Just now Georg was watching a movie review show, and I walked through the room and watched for a moment. They ranked movies as "See It" or "Rent It," and I assume they would also have a negative rating like "Skip It" but I didn't keep watching long enough to see them pan a movie. Anyway, it seemed more useful than the binary "thumbs up/thumbs down" of yore, and made me think about my own method of ranking movies:

  1. See it in the theater (rare these days)
  2. Buy it on DVD
  3. Rent it from Netflix
  4. Keep an eye out for it on cable
  5. Refrain from changing the channel if it comes on while I'm watching
  6. Feign illness if friends want to watch it

There's also a "so bad it's...bad" category of movies that I will never, ever see, but I still want to find out what happens. That's what is for.

that ever graced the screen

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Had so much fun doing today's all Oscar winners radio show. It turned out to be more work than I was expecting, but so worth it. Most of the prep involved getting the movies from Netflix and ripping the songs -- or in some cases, discovering that the movie version of the song sounded awful, and then choosing another version. When I didn't go with the movie version I tried to play one that was as similar as possible (ideally recorded in the same year) so it would sound similar. The only one that was completely different was "Call Me Irresponsible." It was sung by Jackie Gleason in the movie, and he's supposed to be drunk, and it makes sense within the movie, but as a song it's not something you would want to listen to on purpose. So I played Bobby Darin's version.

I did play a couple of songs that hadn't won: first, I started the show with two songs about Hollywood, "Hooray for Hollywood" and "Hollywood Party." Which I have to say, I've had "Hollywood Party" stuck in my head for days. It's a silly little song from a silly little movie, and fiendishly catchy. You can tell it's from a pre-code movie because it includes the line "Bring along your girl, go home with somebody else's; forget about your girl, she's going to do all right!"

Besides that, I also played "Blues in the Night," which didn't win and probably should have, resulting in some controversy. And under the talksets I mostly played instrumental versions of songs that were nominated & didn't win.

At the last minute, this morning I stumbled onto a CD of old movie commercials, which I had never gotten around to listening to and didn't even remember I owned. Popped it in the computer and it turns out they weren't short commercials, they were 15 minute promotional radio programs about the movies. And there was one for The Gay Divorcee, the source of the first winner, "The Continental." And it took me about 5 minutes to make a one-minute clip that I used to introduce "The Continental." It was great! It actually included the line "The Gay Divorcee is surely the gayest picture ever to grace the screen." Best of all, the show had been one minute short, I was thinking I was just going to have to pad it with a couple of extra long talksets or something. And so this fabulous little clip finished off the show perfectly. It was like the cherry on top.

The most interesting thing for me about hearing all those Oscar winning songs together, was the variable quality. It ranged from songs for the ages, songs that I believe people will still be listening to in a hundred years -- "Over the Rainbow," "It Might as Well Be Spring," -- to songs that should have been allowed to die a merciful death long ago -- "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" for example. (In truth that was the only song I played that I consider genuinely bad. Then again, I stopped at 1965 because 1966's winner was "Born Free.")

I guess it's for a few reasons: first of all, Oscar winning songs are all new, and it's hard to tell in the moment which songs are going to hold up in future years. Well, I think professional songwriters are probably better at judging that, but the entire Academy votes on Best Song. Also, the Academy has its own reasons for rewarding a song, which don't always line up with what I would consider the best song in a year. It is puzzling sometimes though, how they made the choice. For instance, the very first Best Song, "The Continental." The same movie included "Night and Day," which in my opinion is clearly the far better song, and wasn't even nominated. How did they decide which song was worthy of recognition? I have no idea.

Or another example, the year that "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" won, the nominees included "Something's Gotta Give,"Love Is the Tender Trap" and "Unchained Melody." Looking back their choice seems almost perverse. I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I did a trivia contest during the program, which was also fun! I tried to come up with questions that went along with the flow of the show. The tricky part was that as the show went on, the songs I was playing answered the questions. I had to discard a couple of questions because I couldn't ask them all at the very beginning. Anyway I think it came together well, and though not all of them got answered, I did get winners for about half. Here are the questions:

1. We're about to hear a song from a movie, which begins with the fanfare played under the studio logo. Listen to the fanfare and name the studio.
(obviously you can't answer this one just from reading this. It was Warner Brothers, the song was "Hooray for Hollywood" from the movie Hollywood Hotel. The rest of the answers will be behind a cut.)
2. The singer who performs an Oscar-winning song in the movie doesn't share in the award, even though a memorable performance can have a lot to do with the song winning. What singer gave the most performances that resulted in a Best Original Song win?
3. At first the award was called "Best Song" and the only rule was that it appeared in a movie in the previous year. "Sweet Leilani" (which I had just played before asking this question) was a radio hit for Bing Crosby in 1935, and then they put it in a movie two years later and it won the Oscar. Now the award is called Best Original Song & the song must be written specifically for the movie. Why was the rule changed?
4. Who is the only Oscar to win an Oscar?
5. What happens to an Oscar statuette when its winner dies?
6. Last year "Jai Ho" from Slumdog Millionaire won best song. That was only the 3rd time the Best Song was not in English. What was the first?
7. For decades there was no rule, but by tradition only one song was nominated per movie. What as the first movie to get more than 1 Best Song nomination?
8. Who was the first woman to win Best Song? Either composer or lyricist.

gold diggers of 1933

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February 5 movie: Gold Diggers of 1933. A friend was talking about wanting to watch pre-code movies, and I made a list of some of my favorites in 3 categories: Comedy, Drama and Sleaze. This was the top of the list of comedies.

There's so much to love about Gold Diggers of 1933. The crazy Busby Berkeley numbers, Aline MacMahon's raunchy humor, the sweet romance between Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. It's also really interesting to see a comedy about the Depression, made while it was happening. To quote Roger Ebert, the characters in most movies (then and now) seem to be living on a stipend from God. The three women at the center of this movie are living hand-to-mouth while they try to get jobs in the theater. They share a dingy apartment so small the three of them sleep in one bed; dodge the landlady when rent is due; steal milk from the neighbors; and have pawned so many of their things, they have to pool their closets to come up with one outfit suitable to visit a Broadway producer. And they make jokes about it. And the jokes are funny!

One joke that I hadn't noticed before, which made me laugh out loud this time, is when Barney (Ned Sparks), the crochetey producer, decides his next show is going to be about the Depression. MacMahon asks if there's going to be any comedy in it, because that's what she does. "Comedy?!" Barney shouts. "I'll make 'em laugh at you starving to death! It'll be the funniest thing you ever did!"

Gold Diggers of 1933 is not what people typically think of as a "pre-code movie" because there's no actual sex. The movie could easily have been made under the code if they had just toned it down a little, removed the jokes about sex and drugs, made the costumes less revealing and the situations less suggestive. Still, it has a breezy openness about it which to me was the wonderful thing about pre-code movies. Anyone who thinks their generation invented sexual freedom (boomers, I'm looking at you) needs to watch this and learn.

flirtation walk

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February 5 movie: Flirtation Walk. Romantic comedy starring Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. He's a military cadet and she's a general's daughter. It suffers from a lack of good supporting cast, lack of good songs, lack of Busby Berkeley, and lack of Ruby Keeler -- the movie is structured so she's not in it at all in Act 2. Really big mistake.

the bedford incident

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February 4 movie: The Bedford Incident. This was a Cold War movie about a US destroyer which catches a Soviet sub in illegal territory, and tries to force the sub out. Richard Widmark is the destroyer captain, a hard-nosed authoritarian who develops an Ahab-like obsession with the sub. Eric Portman is a German officer on board to advise Widmark. Sidney Poitier is a civilian reporter who asks a lot of questions and generally gets in Widmark's face in a way he's not used to, seeing as he's used to interacting only with men under his command. And Martin Balsam is a Navy doctor who comes on board with Poitier. This was an interesting psychological drama, and then it got really really dark in a way I wasn't at all expecting. I enjoyed it.

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