Friday, June 7, 2024

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1941: The Uninvited

This is the last bit of 1941 for this week, and we end it with Marx (Brothers, of course), Nazis, dragons, and Miami - you know, something for everyone. Or something for no one, for, believe it or not, this is our first entry with zero Academy Award-nominated films! Read on:

The Big Store
release: June 20
dir: Charles Reisner
pr: Louis K. Sidney
scr: Sid Kuller & Hal Fimberg and Ray Golden, original story by Nat Perrin
cin: Charles Lawton, Jr.

In The Big Store, Margaret Dumont hires private detectives Groucho and Harpo to find out who tried to murder her nephew Tony Martin, who wants to leave his aunt's lucrative department store and pursue a singing career alongside his piano teacher, Chico. When left to their own devices, they've still got the old magic going - Groucho courting Dumont while hiding just how derelict his office is is my personal highlight - but there are two very long musical numbers and a very long stunt-filled action climax. Both the action setpiece and the "Sing While You Sell" number are highlights for me actually, very effective, but also evidence that there's not enough of the ol' mania in these Marx films.

Man Hunt
release: June 20
dir: Fritz Lang
scr: Dudley Nichols, from the novel Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household
cin: Arthur C. Miller

A British game hunter caught with a rifle near Hitler's country home is pursued as an enemy spy by the Nazis while he exhaustedly protests his innocence. Roddy McDowall has a brief but terrifically played role as a cabin boy who helps our hero. Walter Pidgeon is the star: gosh, he's great, a physical performance full of running, rolling, sweating, panting; also gets you in his head enough to make you question whether or not he actually would have pulled the trigger on the F├╝hrer. George Sanders great as the lead villain, John Carradine terrifying as the Nazis' assassin of choice. Final fight made me gasp. Awesome score, you can hear the seed of John Williams' "Imperial March" in there.

The Reluctant Dragon
release: June 20
dir: Alfred L. Werker
pr: Walt Disney
scr: Ted Sears & Al Perkins & Larry Clemmons & William Cottrell & Harry Clork, story for "The Reluctant Dragon" by Erdman Penner and T. Hee from the book by Kenneth Grahame, story for "Baby Weems" by Joe Grant & Dick Huemer & John P. Miller
cin: Bert Glennon / Winton C. Hoch

Quasi-documentary has Robert Benchley go to Disney Studios to try to pitch Walt on an idea for a movie; instead, he gets lost and learns all the various processes that go into making a Disney Animated Feature. It's also an anthology film, giving us a "Casey, Jr." scene that is not in Dumbo, a Goofy short (hilarious), a short that's all storyboard drawings (great section), and the titular cartoon (Happy Pride Month to that fruity dragon!). Fun curio.

Moon Over Miami
release: July 4
dir: Walter Lang
pr: Harry Joe Brown
scr: Vincent Lawrence and Brown Holmes, adaptation by George Seaton and Lynn Starling, from a play by Stephen Powys
cin: Allen M. Davey / J. Peverell Marley / Leon Shamroy

Two sisters and their aunt go to Miami Beach to snag rich husbands, with lead sis Betty Grable finding herself caught between two men. Naturally, much of it is a studio set, but there is some great footage of vintage Florida...even if it's not always Miami Beach. Though there is a nice exterior and establishing shot of The Flamingo Hotel and Resort (R.I.P. 1920-1955), where the action takes place, major Florida scenes were shot in Silver Springs and Winter Haven. I thought something looked off! But who cares when Betty Grable's wearing such great outfits and she's getting romanced by Don Ameche and those art deco sets and oh, don't Charlotte Greenwood and Jack Haley steal the show! One of my favorite posters, too:

We'll be back on Sunday with ice-dancing, a dead athlete, and Bette Davis with a Southern accent.
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