Saturday, October 16, 2021

"Imitation General" (1958)

I mostly love Imitation General (1958) because it feels like an extended episode of my favorite TV show, Combat! (1962-67).  I expect the characters from that show to just come marching up over some hill on the horizon and set about helping the people in this one fix their problems.  They never do, but I feel like they might at any moment.  There are just so many similarities between the two!

For one thing, Master Sergeant Murphy (Glenn Ford) carries a Thompson machine gun just like Sergeant Saunders (Vic Morrow) has on Combat!.  The sound effects for it aren't quite the same (not so smooth and purring as Saunders'), but oh well.  It's still a Thompson, my favorite weapon of all time.  (Shh, yes, even over a Winchester repeater or a Colt .45.)

Also, these soldiers are wandering around what's supposed to be the French countryside after D-DAY, but is obviously the rolling hills of southern California outside Culver City, exactly where Combat! filmed quite a few episodes.  

Not only that, but they even have fight off a German soldier played by Paul Busch, who appeared in thirty-five episodes of Combat! -- more than 1/5 of the episodes!  I mean, how can my beloved Second Squad be far away?  I don't think we even find out what outfit these soldiers are with, so I have headcanoned them into the 361st Regiment and figure they'll meet up with King Company sooner or later.

Actually, the Combat! episode "The Prisoner" has a lot of similarities to the plot of this movie, now that I think about it.

Anyway, Imitation General is called a comedy, and it does have a lot of funny parts.  But it's also a good war movie, with lots of action that's deftly executed.  And it's a pretty good character study too, looking at the way that responsibility affects people, how important leadership is, and so on.  The storyline is quite serious, it's just the way characters react to things that makes it funny.  Well, and a few sight gags, plus Red Buttons making a lot of amusing faces.  

Brigadier General Lane (Kent Smith) is touring near the front lines, boosting morale with his presence and getting a more accurate picture of how the war is going.  His driver, Corporal Derby (Red Buttons), worries constantly that they're all going to be killed, and keeps trying to convince the general to go back to headquarters.  His aide, Master Sergeant Murphy, does what he can to keep them all safe, ever vigilant and ready to defend the three of them when needed.

Unfortunately, General Lane chooses to protect his sergeant instead at a critical moment, and takes a bullet in his place.  Right about then, the Krauts make a big push and cut off the American troops in that area from the rest of the Allied forces.  Murphy and Derby hide in a half-ruined farmhouse, where they've dragged the general's body to keep it out of enemy hands.

A worried corporal named Sellers (Dean Jones) wanders into the farmhouse, convinced he's got shell-shock and should be in a hospital.  Really, he's just freaked out at discovering he's scared of getting killed, and once Murphy convinces him of that, he's pretty brave for the rest of the story.  But he thinks that Murphy is a general because he's holding General Lane's helmet, and Murphy uses that mistake to boost Sellers' morale.  And then Murphy realizes that, if everyone thinks he's a general, he can rally the troops and lead them in fighting their way out of the pocket the Krauts have sewn them into.  So he sets about doing exactly that.

The trouble is, there's this private named Hutchmeyer (Tige Andrews) who knows Murphy from earlier in the war and has a grudge against him.  Most of the funniest parts of this movie come from Derby's efforts to convince Hutchmeyer that Murphy is dead, and also keep him from discovering that Murphy is pretending to be General Lane.

Various exciting things unfold, like Murphy and Sellers taking on a bunch of Germans by driving straight at them a Jeep with half a metal water tower tied to the front.  There are also several tanks involved, including one driven by the aforementioned Paul Busch.  

And there's a local French girl, Simone (Taina Elg), that Murphy and Hutchmeyer both take a shine to.  Everything turns out okay in the end, I assure you, just like it would if it was one of the more light-hearted episodes of Combat!.

Is this movie family friendly?  Basically.  Simone takes a bath, so you get to see her bare shoulders and legs, as shown on the lobby card at the top of this post.  Soldiers leer at her, Hutchmeyer obviously wants to seduce her, and there's some dialog about soldiers missing/yearning for women.  At one point, a character pretends to be attacking Simone violently to convince another character to leave the premises, but it's a sham and the audience knows it.  The wartime violence is all non-bloody, like you'd expect from a 1950s movie.  I don't recall any cussing.  I would show this to my kids, and most likely will one of these days.

This has been my second contribution to the Glenn Ford Blogathon, which I'm co-hosting with Coffee, Classics, and Craziness this weekend.  Check out this main post to find all the other contributions!

Friday, October 15, 2021

The Glenn Ford Blogathon is Here!

Welcome to the Glenn Ford Blogathon, hosted by yours truly of Hamlette's Soliloquy and Eva of Coffee, Classics, and Craziness!  We are so excited that you could join us in celebrating this delightful actor.

All weekend long, people will be contributing posts about Glenn Ford and his filmography.  As those get shared with us, we'll share them with you, so be sure to check back to either this post or Eva's for the ever-lengthening roster of posts.

The Participants:

at RealWeegieMidget Reviews

at Hamlette's Soliloquy

at Speakeasy

at Taking Up Room

at Coffee, Classics, and Craziness

at Hamlette's Soliloquy

at Poppity Talks Classic Film

at The Classic Movie Muse

at Dubsism

My Ten Favorite Glenn Ford Movies

Glenn Ford is one of my top five favorite actors.  It took me about twenty years to realize he ranked that highly on my list, but he truly does deserve that spot.  I have never seen him turn in a performance I did not enjoy, and some of his movies are incredibly dear to my heart.  So here are my ten favorite films of his!

1. Blackboard Jungle (1955) A WWII-vet (Glenn Ford) becomes a teacher at an inner-city NYC high school where the other teachers have given up trying to educate the hoodlums in their classrooms.  Though he tangles with one particularly vicious student (Vic Morrow), this new teacher manages to get through to most of the students, including one bright kid (Sidney Poitier) with a big chip on his shoulder.

2. 3:10 to Yuma (1957) A down-on-his-luck rancher (Van Heflin) takes a job transporting a wily outlaw (Glenn Ford) to the train that will take him to the state penitentiary in Yuma, Arizona.  The outlaw does everything in his considerable powers to convince the rancher to let him go, resulting in a simmering suspense story that eventually boils over in a surprisingly upbeat climax.

3. The Fastest Gun Alive (1956) An unassuming shopkeeper (Glenn Ford) is secretly also the fastest draw in the west.  His reputation keeps drawing bad men to him, eager to see if they're faster than he is, which causes a lot of trouble for him, his wife, and the town they moved to recently.

4. Texas (1941) Two young Civil War veterans (Glenn Ford and William Holden) have a series of adventures in Texas as they try to make their way in the world, one of them on the right side of the law and one on the wrong. 

5. Imitation General (1958) A non-com (Glenn Ford) pretends to be a general to boost morale of a group of American soldiers cut off from their own lines during WWII in France, with humorous results.  Red Buttons and a very young Dean Jones both add so much to the fun.

6. The Big Heat (1953) A widowed policeman (Glenn Ford) tracks down the criminals who murdered his wife (including a vicious one played by Lee Marvin) with help from a former pal of theirs (Gloria Grahame).

7. The Sheepman (1958) A sheep rancher (Glenn Ford) insists on raising his sheep in an area dominated by cattle ranchers, no matter how much they pressure or cajole him to be rid of the wooly beasts.  The presence of a stubborn and sassy woman (Shirley MacLaine) elevates this above turning into yet another range war picture.

8. The Violent Men (1955) A small rancher (Glenn Ford) is pressured by a big rancher (Edward G. Robinson) with a nasty wife (Barbara Stanwyck) to sell his land to them, but he gets all stubborn and refuses, and then things get violent, as you might expect from the title. 

9. The Secret of Convict Lake (1951) A bunch of escaped convicts (led by one played by Glenn Ford) hide out in a snowbound farm town inhabited mostly by women (particularly one played by Gene Tierney) left behind by the men who are part of a posse chasing the convicts.

10. The Gazebo (1959) A playwright (Glenn Ford) gets blackmailed over some scandalous old photos of his actress wife (Debbie Reynolds) and decides to kill the blackmailer rather than keep paying him.  Which leads to very dark comedy that has me in absolute stitches, though my husband didn't find it nearly so funny because he said that Glenn Ford was too good at communicating fear and worry, and so my husband just kept feeling afraid and worried for him.  So YMMV.

This has been my first contribution for the Glenn Ford Blogathon that I am co-hosting with Coffee, Classics, and Craziness this weekend!  Check this post for the list of contributions.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Movie Music: Elmer Bernstein's "The Great Escape" (1963)

Here I am again to discuss some more awesome movie music with you. Today I'm focusing on an iconic score from one of the best WWII movies ever: The Great Escape (1963).

Of course, it's by the master of exciting, manly movie music from the '60s, namely Elmer Bernstein. He's my absolute favorite movie composer, so you'll be hearing more of his music in this series, have no fear.

If you've never seen The Great Escape, do yourself a favor and go watch it, cuz it's a classic war movie that blends caper films and prison escapes, and stars so many wonderful actors I get a little dizzy thinking of all that talent in one place. Steve McQueen. James Garner. James Coborn. Charles Bronson. Richard Attenborough. David McCallum. Directed by John Sturges! Based on a true story! Like I said, go watch it.

"On the Road" is one of my favorite tracks because it weaves together so many character themes, which means you get a really good taste of the range of this score in one three-minute chunk.  

But my favorite track might be "The Chase" because it starts out exciting, gets a little bright and happy, then pulls out all the excitement and builds tension up and up, really making us feel like someone is sneaking and hiding and racing toward freedom.  

I totally recommend getting the full soundtrack on CD, the version with 3 discs.  It makes for a wonderful background to your day!

(The bulk of this review originally appeared here at J and J Productions on June 15, 2015.)

Monday, October 04, 2021

Upcoming Blogathons

Here's your friendly neighborhood Hamlette reminding you of some cool blogathons I'll be participating in over the next couple of months.  Just in case you aren't aware of them and would like to join the fun yourself!

I'm cohosting the Glenn Ford Blogathon with Eva of Coffee, Classics, and Craziness on October 15 to 17.  You can sign up here on my blog or here on Eva's.  I'll be contributing a list of my ten favorite Glenn Ford movies and a review of Imitation General (1958).

Real Weegie Midget Reviews and Cinematic Catharsis are co-hosting the Third Hammer-Amicus Blogathon the next weekend, October 22 to 24.  I'm not exactly a fan of Hammer films, but The Hound of the Baskervilles is my favorite Sherlock Holmes mystery, so I'm reviewing the 1959 version with Peter Cushing as Holmes and Christopher Lee as Sir Henry Baskerville.  I've seen it once before, and I liked it well enough to want to watch it again to review.  Especially because it's fun seeing Lee play a good guy!

And the weekend after that, I'll be contributing a review of Bernard Herrmann's score for Jane Eyre (1943) to the Bernard Herrmann Blogathon hosted by The Classic Movie Muse on October 29-31.  I love the idea of basing a blogathon around a film score composer!

Finally, I'll be reviewing one of my favorite movies, Charade (1963), for the Distraction Blogathon hosted November 12-14 by Taking Up Room.  Which gives me a good excuse for watching it again this fall, even though I've seen it like a dozen times.

Are you participating in any of these?  If so, I'll see you there!  If not, well, you can click any of those links to the host blogs to sign up -- I linked to the blogathon sign-up pages to make it easy for you :-)

Thursday, September 30, 2021

New Femnista Article about "Dracula Untold" (2014)

I have a new Femnista article out, and it's perfectly timed for the Halloween season because it is all about Dracula Untold (2014) and why I love that particular vampire movie.  You can read my article right here.

This autumn's issue of Femnista is all about interesting retellings that put a twist on the story they're bringing to life in a new way.  Fun stuff!

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Movie Music: Bruce Broughton's "Tombstone" (1993)

When I think of awesome modern western film scores, one name instantly pops into my mind: Bruce Broughton. Sure, he's composed for plenty of non-westerns, like The Blue and the Gray (1982), Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) and Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993), but he's done such a masterful job scoring westerns like Tombstone (1993), Texas Rising (2015), and Silverado (1985) that I can't help but connect him with them in my mind. (Of course, a lot of this is because I love westerns -- your mileage may vary!)

Today, I'm focusing on the soundtrack for Tombstone. I'm going to start things off slow and easy, with "A Family," a tender track that highlights the bond of kinship between Wyatt Earp and his brothers as they reunite in Tombstone, Arizona, looking ahead to a happy and peaceful life with their wives. It's hauntingly sweet, especially since we know their dream of peace will be short-lived.

Much of this soundtrack is minor, sometimes strident, and distinctly modern in flavor. Here's a good example of that:

Although that sort of music usually leaves me edgy, sometimes annoyed, I do like the chaotic flavor of this because it accurately portrays the lawlessness depicted in Tombstone.

This last selection is from the very end of the movie. It begins tentative and hopeful, then transitions into a joyous and frolicsome romp. This is my favorite track from the whole soundtrack, because it has all the major themes in it, and because at 2:30, in comes that chilling, wonderful drumbeat, those triumphant trumpets -- it's a fanfare, a call to arms, and a celebration all at once, and I love it. This plays while the end credits roll, so it's pretty long, and that is A-OK with me. Eventually, it ebbs back into quieter music, then ends with a bold flourish.

I could listen to that theme over and over and over again. In fact, I have done just that many times ;-)

(This review originally appeared here at J and J Productions on July 28, 2015.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

2021 Tolkien Blog Party Tag

Happy Hobbit Day!  Today is Bilbo and Frodo's birthdays, so it felt like the perfect time to fill out my Tolkien Blog Party tag myself.

Can you believe this is the ninth year in a row that we've come together to celebrate all things Tolkien for a whole week?  Wow.  If you want to check out the party, go here.  If you want to enter the giveaway, go here.  If you just want to read my answers to the tag questions, well, here they are!

1. Aragorn: Favorite Tolkien hero/heroine 

Pretty sure anyone who has talked to me for more than about 2 minutes about all things Tolkien will be able to tell you the answers to this one.  And yes, I have two answers.

From the first time I saw The Fellowship of the Ring in the theater back in 2001, Boromir has been my favorite LOTR character.  I read the book after seeing the movie, which confirmed my opinion.  Boromir is wonderful.  Book-Boromir is even more lovely than Movie-Boromir, filled with courage, compassion, and a willingness to serve others.  And, yes, he is prideful and can be overconfident and even over-stubborn.  But he is my favorite.


Thirteen years later, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies came out in 2014, and I fell deeply and desperately in love with Bard the Bowman.  Book-Bard is just kind of okay, but Movie-Bard... Movie-Bard rose so swiftly up the ranks of my fictional heroes that it was kind of dizzying.  He's honorable, kind, decisive, and a loving and caring father.  Nothing to see here, just a guy who's practically perfect for me in every way.

So, I love both Book-Boromir and Movie-Bard, and don't even think of trying to make me choose between them.

2. Boromir: Favorite Tolkien character arc

Annnnnnnnd I'm going to have to answer Boromir here again.  Here we have a guy who has spent his life praised and lauded for his strength, prowess, power, valiance.  He's grown up knowing that, when his father Denethor dies, he will become the next Steward of Gondor.  He's spend his adult years defending Gondor's people, putting his life on the line to keep them safe.  And not only his own people!  He's also spent time in Rohan helping them fight off the encroaching dark hordes.  He's committed to holding the line against Mordor because he knows that all those to the west of Gondor are depending on him and the armies he leads to keep evil away from them.

What human could spend their life that way and not be filled with pride in their own strength, confidence in their own abilities?  

But what happens to Boromir?  He trusts his own strength.  He relies on his own power.  His pride tells him that he has the power to wield the One Ring.  For good, of course!  To aid him in his continual fight to save others!  

And, because he trusts in himself, he falls.  He tries to take the ring from Frodo.

But his story doesn't end there.  It could have -- he could have made excuses to himself and to others.  "I didn't know what I was doing."  "The ring was lying to me."  "I was seduced by the Ring."  Nope.  He confesses everything at the first opportunity, telling Aragorn that he tried to take the Ring, and he scared Frodo away.  He sees clearly, at last, that his own power is nothing, his own strength is worthless.  He confesses, repents... and dies absolved and forgiven.  Dies because he once again put his own body into harm's way to protect others, and even though he failed to keep Merry and Pippin from getting captured, Aragorn tells him he has triumphed.  Not over the Uruk-hai, though he slew many, but triumphed at last over his own worst enemies: his own pride and self-confidence.  

Pardon me while I go blow my nose.  Must be allergies or something.

3. Frodo: Favorite song or poem by Tolkien 

I love the "Road goes ever on and on" song that Bilbo and Frodo sing snatches of here and there.  I have the verses all marked in my copy for easy finding.

4. Gandalf: Favorite wise Tolkien quotation 

"Go where you must go, and hope!"  My favorite line in The Lord of the Rings. In all of Tolkien, really.  So comforting.  And encouraging.  

My friend Vanessa Rasanen put it on a series of mugs for me, which you can buy yourself from her shop if you want one.  OR you could enter my Tolkien giveaway, because one of the prizes is one of her mugs with that line on it!

5. Gimli: A Middle-earth location you'd like to visit 

Rivendell!!!  I long to visit Rivendell.  

What's not to love, I ask you.  Books, food, scenery, fresh air, mountains, waterfalls, elves, peace and quiet... I want it all!

6. Legolas: Favorite Middle-earth Weapon 

I love Glamdring.  Now you know.

7. Merry: Favorite way to celebrate Tolkien's stories 

Besides reading his books over and over, and watching the movie versions over and over?  Well, honestly, this Tolkien Blog Party is my favorite!  Getting to share my love for this imaginary world and these imaginary people with all of you real people in the real world... it's just awesome.

I also enjoy making recipes from An Unexpected Cookbook by Chris-Rachael Oseland.  Food is such an integral part of Tolkien's stories!

8. Pippin: Favorite funny Tolkien quotation 

Basically the whole chapter "The Houses of Healing" in Return of the King makes me laugh and laugh, especially when Aragorn gets all sassy.  This is long, but I love it:
"Master Meriadoc," said Aragorn, "if you think that I have passed through the mountains and the realm of Gondor with fire and sword to bring herbs to a careless soldier who throws away his gear, you are mistaken. If your pack has not been found, then you must send for the herb-master of this House. And he will tell you that he did not know that the herb you desire had any virtues, but that it is called westmansweed by the vulgar, and galenas by the noble, and other names in other tongues more learned, and after adding a few half-forgotten rhymes that he does not understand, he will regretfully inform you that there is none in the House, and he will leave you to reflect on the history of tongues."
Ahhhhhh, it cracks me up so much!

9. Samwise: A Middle-earth food you'd like to try

I would love to try Ent-draught.  Or real lembas.  Or Beorn's honey cakes.  Or Mrs. Maggot's mushrooms...

Happy Hobbit Day to you!  I hope you've had a chance to celebrate somehow, or have one planned for later today :-)  And if you're not a Tolkien fan, but read this whole post anyway, well, I hope it has encouraged you to give his writings (or the movies based on them) a try!

Sunday, September 19, 2021

My To-Do List for Autumn, 2021

Just a few things I'd like to do between now and Thanksgiving:

~ Finish the major revisions of my Beauty and the Beast retelling

~ Find that book a title!

~ Publish a new short story in my Once Upon a Western collection

(All photos mine from my Instagram)

~ Read The Once and Future King by T. H. White 

~ Read 2 other books for my latest Classics Club list

~ Read 11 other books off my TBR shelves 

~ Read 3 diverse books

~ Watch 6 movies off my TBW shelves 

~ Try some new bread recipes

~ Have friends over for an Oktoberfest celebration

~ Go camping somewhere new

~ Host my ninth annual Tolkien Blog Party on my book blog -- it kicked off today!

~ Co-host the Glenn Ford Blogathon here on this blog

~ Make apple-cinnamon pancakes

~ Make pumpkin muffins

Sound like fun?  Anything on there that you're hoping or planning to do this fall too?

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Movie Music: Tom Hanks and Co.'s: "That Thing You Do!" (1996)

That Thing You Do! (1996) came out right when I was starting to pay lots of attention to current movies. Although I didn't get to see it in the theater, I rented it as soon as I could. I was already a huge fan of Apollo 13 (1995), and I loved how Tom Hanks incorporated lots of names from it into this movie, which he wrote, directed, and had a pivotal role in.

Tom Hanks set this film in 1964, which he said was the last summer of American innocence, before the country began to divide over issues like the war in Vietnam. He even co-wrote many of the songs for it! Here are a few of my favorites.

This is the title song (written by Adam Schlesinger), the one that makes small-town band The Wonders into a short-lived sensation. It's a smile-inducing song, like a sweet popsicle on a hot summer day.

"Dance With Me Tonight" (by Scott Rogness and Rick Elias) is my other favorite number on the soundtrack -- I used to dance around my room to it when I was a teen. I love how well it captures the feel of '60s music, which I spent my teen years listening to instead of what was on modern radio at the time. 

The Wonders can do slow and tender too, like in "All My Only Dreams" (by Scott Rogness and Rick Elias).

Not all the music in the movie is '60s-style pop, though. Check out this cheerful jazz number (by Steve Tyrell and Robert F. Mann):

I hope you dug some of this music, and if you have never seen That Thing You Do!, do yourself a favor and give it a whirl. It's sweet and funny, and great for a quick end-of-summer escape.

(This review originally appeared here at J and J Productions on July 22, 2015.)

Friday, September 10, 2021

Closing Out My Summer 2021 To-Do List

Labor Day has come and gone, so, although where I live, summer weather lingers through September, I think it's time to look back on my summer to-do list and see what all I checked off.  (Spoiler alert: almost everything!!!)

I've decided to leave little star-ratings after the books and movies in case that's helpful to anyone, especially since I didn't manage to review any of the movies listed here.  Yet!  The book ratings should all match my Goodreads reviews of them.

(All photos are mine from my Instagram)

~ Finish the first draft of my Beauty and the Beast retelling CHECK!  You can read my celebratory post here.  I'm now working on the second draft.

~ Watch 6 movies off my TBW shelves Check!  I watched:

  • Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970) (★★★)
  • Captain Blood (1935) (★★★★)
  • Chicago Deadline (1949) (★★★★)
  • The Sea Hawk (1940) (★★★★★)
  • The Killers (1946) (★★★★★)
  • Jamaica Inn (1939) (★★★)
  • The Saint Strikes Back (1939) (★★★)
  • season 4 of Leverage (2011-12) (★★★★★)

~ Reread The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas Check!  I loved it all over again, and you can read my review here.

~ Read 2 other books about/by someone who is not white Check!  I also read: 

  • Pride by Ibi Zoboi (★★★★)
  • Black Frontiers by Lillian Schlissel (★★★★★)

~ Read 2 other books for my latest Classics Club list Check!  I read:

~ Read 9 books off my TBR shelves Check!  I read a whopping SIXTEEN!  They were:

~ Make the rainbow popsicles my kids found a recipe for Check!  They were cute and tasty.

~ Have friends over for the 4th of July Check!  We had family members over that we haven't seen for a while, and we shot off a bunch of little fireworks and enjoyed watching larger ones in the distance.  

~ Co-host Legends of Western Cinema Week Check!  It was great fun, as always -- my wrap-up post is here.

~ Drive up into the Shenandoah Valley and breathe the free air Check!  I'm hoping we get up there again this fall, too.

(Taken in Wyoming, not the Shenandoah Valley.)

~ Go camping somewhere new
Fail.  But we're hoping/planning to do this next week!

~ Meet my friend Vanessa for the first time in real life Check!  And I met my friend Charity for the first time IRL, too!

All in all, I had a fantastic summer.  We went on adventures, we had adventures at home, I read a lot, I shared many movies with my family, and I finished the first draft of my new book!!!  Huzzah!