MGM

Movie Monday: Cinderella’s Feller 1940

Posted on

Cinderella's Feller Image One
Photo Credit: YouTube

Eighty years ago, today, the Technicolor Special (Warner Bros. Series) short family musical Cinderella’s Feller was released. Directed by William C. McGann and produced by Gordon Hollingshead, it starred Juanita Quigley, Scotty Beckett, Maris Wrixon, Virginia Brissac and, Terry as Rex the Dog, the Cairn Terrier best known as Toto in the MGM film The Wizard of Oz.

I can’t find much written about this little short, though it is on YouTube in its entirety. It’s only a little over 19 minutes long. It is not listed on Turner Classic Movies or the American Film Institute but, does show up on the British Film Institute…which I find odd.

The site Letterboxd simply states:

The story of Cinderella with a children’s cast.

Cinderella's Feller Image Two
Photo Credit: IMDB

IMDB is not much longer:

The famous fairy tale is musicalized and given a modern 1940s spin with the principal characters (Cinderella, Prince Charming and the Wicked Step Sisters) all played by children.

I guess the story of The Little Glass Slipper needs no explaining.

Trivia Bit:
♦ This short was produced toward the tail end of Shirley Temple‘s reign as Hollywood’s #1 box office star and it’s reasonable to assume it was made to showcase young talent that Warner Brothers may have thought had a shot at replicating Temple’s success.

Additional Reading:
Cairn Movie Descriptions 1940 (Cairn Terrier Movies Site)
Cinderella Folk Tale (Wikipedia)

Movie Monday: The Sporting Venus 1925

Posted on Updated on

The Sporting Venus Image One
Image Credit: Mike Cline’s Then Playing Blog

Ninety-five years ago, today, the silent, black & white romance film The Sporting Venus was released by MGM. Directed by Marshall Neilan, story by Gerald Beaumont and screenplay by Thomas J. Geraghty, it was filmed at Cortachy Castle in Angus, Scotland and, MGM Studios. It starred Blanche Sweet (Neilan’s wife), Ronald Coleman, Lew Cody, Josephine Crowell and Edward Martindel. This was the first of two movies paring Sweet with Coleman.

Synopsis:

Lady Gwen, the last of the sporting Grayles, falls in love with Donald MacAllan, a bright young medical student far below her station. Gwen’s father, who opposes the match, introduces her to Prince Carlos, who wishes to marry her in order to pay off his creditors.

The Sporting Venus Image One
Photo Credit: imdb.com & amazon.com

Donald enlists during the World War and Carlos continues his courtship. When Donald returns from the fighting, Carlos tells him that he is engaged to Gwen and Donald, therefore, makes no attempt to see her. Gwen mistakes Donald’s seeming indifference for contempt and seeks to forget him by living riotously in several European capitals. Having exhausted her fortune, and ruined her health, Gwen returns to Scotland and goes to live in the same cottage where Donald used to study. She becomes ill and, in delirium, calls for Donald. Her old nurse goes to fetch him at the Grayle estate, which, having become wealthy, he has just bought. Donald rescues Gwen, who has wandered out in a storm, and nurses her back to health.

The Screen Review:

A Hollywood conception of Scotsmen who wear the kilt but, whose complexions betray nary a sign of the ruddy ruggedness due to Highland rain and wind, is to be seen at the Capitol this week in a picture called “The Sporting Venus” […]. [There] is a question [of] whether the Wallaces, the Bruces, the Watts and the McTavishes will smile with any satisfaction upon it. Not that they are intentionally maligned in this story but, that the men from the land of the heather are portrayed with studio-blanched complexions and, in one or two instances, wearing brocaded silk dressing gowns.

Ronald Coleman Image Two
Photo Credit: Ronald Coleman Gallery

Marshall Neilan, the director of this celluloid effusion, in his desire to depict Lady Grayle (Blanche Sweet) as a plucky person at the eleventh hour of a fast life, shows her ladyship smoking a cigarette before she breathes her last. Ronald Colman is undoubtedly a bonnie actor but, you just know that he never was born to wear a kilt, [though], he does for a few scenes. He impersonates Donald McAllen, frequently alluded to as a commoner.

Donald and the capricious lassie, Lady Gwendolyn, are happy in Scotland until the coming of Prince Carlos […]. This Prince, played by Lew Cody, is a man of many debts and a faithful valet. His creditors see only one way to get back their money and that is to have the oily gentleman marry a wealthy wife. Donald goes to France to fight, and when he returns on leave, [believes] the Prince’s story […] that [he], more or less, is to wed Lady Gwendolyn.

Lady Gwendolyn […] becomes […] a flighty young woman who gambles in millions. The young hero goes back to France, and as a surgeon, makes a great name for himself. He purchases Grayloch, the great estate of the Grayles.

With the background of Scotland, Mr. Neilan ought to have been able to make a production far stronger than this effort, which, at best, is only a mediocre diversion. It is true that it has some beautiful scenery and the settings are quite pleasing.

Mordaunt Hall
The New York Times
May 11, 1925

This film survived but, I can’t find any clips of it. Silent Era states that a premiere took place on May 10, 1925, at the Capitol Theatre in New York City and was released May 17, 1925. AFI disagrees. ~Vic

Sources:
The Sporting Venus (American Film Institute)
The Sporting Venus (IMDB)
Gentleman of the Cinema (Ronald Coleman Website)
The Screen (The New York Times)
The Sporting Venus (Wikipedia)

Movie Monday: Thunder 1929

Posted on Updated on

Thunder Film Image One
Photo Credit: imdb.com

Ninety years ago, today, the melodramatic silent film Thunder was released. Written by Ann Price and Byron Morgan, it was directed by William Nigh. Considered a lost film, it starred Lon Chaney, Sr. (The Man of a Thousand Faces), Phyllis Haver, James Murray, Tom Keene, Frances Morris (Adventures of Superman (TV Series)/Sarah Kent) and Wally Albright. Though a silent movie, it did have sound effects and a musical score. Only half of the reel survived and this was Chaney’s last silent. [During filming], Chaney caught a cold during the snow scenes which, then, developed into walking pneumonia. Production was shut down for a time but, was eventually completed. Chaney’s illness, combined with his throat cancer, led to his death two months after the release of his last film, and only talkie, 1930’s The Unholy Three.

Thunder Film Image Two
Image Credit: imdb.com

Synopses:

Lon Chaney plays Grumpy Anderson, a railroad engineer with an obsession for running his train on time. His slavishness to promptness causes several tragedies which alienate him from his family. By the story’s end, the engineer restores their faith in him and validates his obsession by forcing his train through a flood to bring badly needed Red Cross supplies to the victims.

[Source]

“Grumpy” Anderson is an old railroad engineer that is obsessed with keeping his train on schedule, no matter the cost. His two sons are also railmen but, don’t share his single mindedness, which leads to one son’s death and a fight with the other on the first son’s funeral car. [This] leads to a crash and demotion of Grumpy to mechanic in the yards. His redemption comes during the Mississippi flood when he is, again, pressed into service to pilot a relief train along with his surviving son.

[Source]

Lon Chaney’s Site

Thunder (the book) from Creepy Classics

Movie Monday: The Lonely Villa 1909

Posted on Updated on

The Lonely Villa Image One
Photo Credit: imdb.com

One-hundred and ten years ago, today (exactly, believe it or not), the silent short crime-drama, The Lonely Villa, was released. A film directed by D. W. Griffith, it starred David Miles, Marion Leonard, Mary Pickford (in one of her very early roles), Gladys Egan and Adele DeGarde and, was based on the Andre de Lorde French play from 1901: Au Téléphone.

D. W. Griffith and Mary Pickford, along with Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks, founded United Artists on February 5, 1919, as a studio where actors could control their own interests instead of being beholden to commercial studios. It is now a subsidiary of MGM and Annapurna Pictures and, as of February 5, 2019 (its 100th anniversary), it was rebranded as United Artists Releasing.

From IMDB:

A gang of thieves lure a man out of his home so that they can rob it and, threaten his wife and children. The family barricade themselves in an interior room but, the criminals are well-equipped for breaking in. When the father finds out what is happening, he must race against time to get back home.

Trivia Bit
♦ During the shot of the father leaving the hotel, a dip can be seen in the road in the background. Today, that is currently the exit for the George Washington Bridge and the location of the hotel is now an apartment complex.

Tune Tuesday: Eddie Cantor 1929

Posted on Updated on

Eddie Cantor Image
Image Credit: radziwill.us

Ninety years ago, today, the #1 song playing was Makin’ Whoopee, a jazzy-blues piece performed by Eddie Cantor from the Broadway musical comedy Whoopee! The musical was written by William Anthony McGuire, composed by Walter Donaldson (Carolina In The Morning & My Mammy), with lyrics by Gus Kahn (It Had To Be You & Dream A Little Dream Of Me). It was based on the 1923 play The Nervous Wreck by Owen Davis.

American Theatre critic Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times praised Cantor for:

“…a comedian of deftness and appealing humor. He is sad. He is preoccupied. He is apprehensive or insinuating with those floating eyes… In the past he has been funny, clever and ludicrous. But, he has never been so enjoyable.”

Of the music, he states:

“Walter Donaldson has composed an appropriate score worthy of better singing than it falls heir to.”

Apparently, Mr. Atkinson disliked Cantor’s singing ability.

The musical was made into a movie in 1930, also pre-code and Eddie Cantor reprised his role from the musical. There was also a 1979 Broadway revival that did very well.

Synopsis From Wikipedia:

In California, Sheriff Bob Wells and the daughter of a rancher, Sally Morgan, are getting married. She is in love with Wanenis, whose part-Indian heritage presents social difficulties for their romance. Sally abandons Sheriff Bob and their wedding, catching a ride with Henry Williams. As a hypochondriac, Henry has problems of his own but, Sally adds to his problems when she leaves a note saying they have eloped. A chase ensues with the jilted Bob, Mary, Henry’s nurse (who is in love with him) and a cast of others. Along the way, they arrive at the Indian Reservation where Wanenis lives. The movie star Leslie Daw enters the proceedings and sings the torchy, sentimental “Love Me, or Leave Me.”

Trivia Bits:
♦ Eddie Cantor invented the name The March of Dimes for the donation campaigns of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (polio), a play on the “March of Time” newsreels. He began the first campaign on his own radio show in January 1938, asking people to mail a dime to the nation’s most famous polio victim, President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Other entertainers joined in the appeal via their own shows and the White House mail room was deluged with 2,680,000 dimes.
♦ At one time, when the rights to The Wizard of Oz (1939) were owned by Samuel Goldwyn, Cantor was considered for the role of the Scarecrow. Goldwyn eventually sold the rights to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
♦ Quote: “Marriage is an attempt to solve problems together which you didn’t have when you were on your own.”

Five Awards