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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Michael Jackson: The Legend Continues (1988) - Star of the month... Elizabeth Taylor

"Michael Jackson: The Legend Continues" is a 1988 documentary special giving insight into the life of Michael Jackson from his early life to the late 1980s. The special also features three fans, who were given the opportunity to visit Michael's home, and talk abot their feelings for Micahel.

Along the way, there are special interview guest appearances from Gene Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Cyndi Lauper, Quincy Jones, Diana Ross, Martin Scorsese,  Sammy Davis Jr., Hermes Pan, Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, Dick Clark and Marlon Jackson.

Some of the archive footage features performers Cher, Diana Ross and Jim Nabors.

Some of the songs excerpted into the documentary include:

  • "I Want You Back" (with Jackson 5)
  • "Never Can Say Goodbye" (with Jackson 5)
  • "It Was A Very Good Year" (live from Diana Special, 1971)
  • "Ben" (live on American Bandstand, 1972)
  • "Dancing Machine" (with Cher) (live on 'The Cher Show', 1974)
  • "Blame it on the Boogie" (Music Video)
  • "Shake Your Body Down to the Ground" (live on American Bandstand, 1979)
  • "Can You Feel It?" (Music Video)
  • "Ease On Down The Road" (From the film 'The Wiz')
  • "Rock With You" (Music Video)
  • "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" (Music Video)
  • "The Love You Save" (live from Motown 25: Yesturday Tonight & Forever, 1985)
  • "Billie Jean" (live from Motown 25: Yesturday Tonight & Forever, 1985)
  • "Thriller" (Music Video)
  • "Say, Say, Say" (Music Video)
  • "When You Wish Upon A Star" (Montage)

That's Entertainment III (1994) - Star of the month... Elizabeth Taylor

"The song has ended but the melody lingers on..." - Gene Kelly (in 'That's Entertainment III')

'That's Entertainment III' is a 1995 documentary reuniting 9 legendary MGM stars, Ann Miller, Cyd Charisse, Debbie Reynolds, Esther Williams, Gene Kelly, Howard Keel, June Allyson, Lena Horne and Mickey Rooney.

Released 18 years after 'That's Entertainment, Part II' (1976), and to celebrate the 70th anniversary of MGM, 'That's Entertainment III' explores the MGM musical a little further than the previous films, by not showing clips from nearly 100 MGM musicals, but also a selection of unused musical numbers for the first time. 

Highlights from 'That's Entertainment, Part II'

  • Overture - As with the two previous films, an overture welcomes us to this theatrical experience
  • 'That's Entertainment III' opens with Fred Astaire singing "Here's to the Girls" from 'Ziegfeld Follies' (1945)
  • First up is Gene Kelly, who provides us with the origins of the MGM musicals, with popular vaudeville acts being filmed in 'The Hollywood Revue' (1929), and the introduction of the Hays Production Code, which led to the casting of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy is a series of family-friendly and compliant musicals
  • Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney with their lively rendition of "Good Morning", from 'Babes in Arms' (1939)
  • We are shown behind the scenes footage into how Eleanor Powell's "Fascinating Rhythm" number from 'Lady Be Good' (1941) was filmed
  • Esther Williams introduces us to her giant swimming pool tank, and gives some background as to how her extravagant ballet sequences were filmed, treating us to her personal favourite clips from her wonderful films
  • June Allyson talks to us about the screen test process, and we see June in action singing "The Three B's" in 'Best Foot Forward' with Nancy Walker and Gloria De Haven
  • Cyd Charisse performing "Baby You Knock Me Out" in 'It's Always Fair Weather' (1955)
  • Cyd Charisse shows us the scenic background building at MGM, and presents a loving tribute to the films of Gene Kelly
  • Gene Kelly & Cyd Charisse's pas de deux "The Heather on the Hill" from 'Brigadoon' (1954), revealed to be Charisse's favourite dance with Gene
  • Debbie Reynolds talks to us about classic leading ladies and gowns by the famed designer Adrian, through clips of Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly, Jean Harlow, Angela Lansbury, Elizabeth Taylor and Marion Davies
  • A special montage is presented showcasing the best of latin/tropical talent, including Xavier Cugat, Ricardo Montalban and Carmen Miranda (with a memorable clip of Mickey Rooney impersonating Miranda in drag)
  • Lena Horne shares her emotional struggle as an African American performer during the 1940s, which led to her usually making a brief walk-on singing performance, before exiting immediately after her number - she also reveals she was not permitted to play the role of Julie LaVerne in 'Showboat' (1951), due to the Hays Production Code not permitting interracial relationships
  • Lena Horne singing "Just One of Those Things" from 'Panama Hattie' (1941)
  • We are shown a deleted Lena Horne song from the film 'Cabin in the Sky' called "Ain't It The Truth" - cut because MGM felt it would be too risque showing an African American woman taking a bubble bath
  • Ava Gardner's vocals for "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" in 'Show Boat' (1952) - in the film her vocals were dubbed
  • The tragic story of Judy Garland's brief stint in 'Annie, Get Your Gun' in 1950, before she was fired - we see two filmed numbers "I'm An Indian Too" and "Doin' What Comes Naturally" for the first time
  • Mickey Rooney appears to give an inspiring tribute to his good friend Judy Garland
  • Judy Garland singing "Who?" in 'Till the Clouds Roll By' (1946)
  • An unreleased Judy Garland song from 'Easter Parade' (1948) called "Mr. Monotony" - in my opinion, the best number filmed and I am baffled as to why it was cut
  • An unreleased Judy Garland song from 'The Harvey Girls' (1946) called "March of the Doagies"
  • Ann Miller (My personal favourite MGM star) gives a tribute to dancing legend Fred Astaire, who by now had passed away
  • Ann Miller singing "Shakin' the Blues Away" in 'Easter Parade' (1948)
  • Howard Keel takes us on a brief tour of the MGM film vault, and talks to us about new technology such as CinemaScope and Stereophonic Sound, designed to combat the threat of television... we are appropriately shown footage of the song "Stereophonic Sound" from 'Silk Stockings' (1957)
  • Howard Keel & Betty Hutton singing "Anything You Can Do I Can Better" in 'Annie, Get Your Gun' (1950)
  • The demise of the MGM musical is discused, including some memorable clips from some of the last big MGM hits, Elvis Presley singing the title song from 'Jailhouse Rock' (1957), Doris Day singing "Shakin' the Blues Away" from 'Love Me or Leave Me' (1955), and the title track from the Oscar winning 'Gigi' (1958)
  • What better way to close the film than with a brief conclusion from Mr. Entertainment himself, Gene Kelly, in what is among the last bits of footage filmed of him
  • And the finale... "That's Entertainment!" from 'The Bandwagon' (1955)

Featured performers (in alphabetical order):

Adrian, George K. Arthur, Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Ingrid Bergman, Ray Bolger, Joseph Breen, Lucille Bremer, Jack Buchanan, Billie Burke, Leslie Caron, Cyd Charisse, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Bing Crosby, Xavier Cugat, Arlene Dahl, Marion Davies, Doris Day, Gloria DeHaven, Marlene Dietrich, Beth Dodge, Betty Dodge, Marie Dressler, Rosetta Duncan, Vivian Duncan, Jimmy Durante, Buddy Ebsen, Nelson Eddy, Cliff Edwards, Nanette Fabray, The Five Locust Sisters, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner, Judy Garland, Betty Garrett, Greer Garson, Paulette Goddard, Dolores Gray, Kathryn Grayson, Oliver Hardy, Jean Harlow, Katharine Hepburn, Bob Hope, Lena Horne, Betty Hutton, Harry James, Betty Jaynes, Louis Jourdan, Buster Keaton, Howard Keel, Grace Kelly, The King's Men, Hedy Lamarr, Angela Lansbury, Stan Laurel, Vivien Leigh, Oscar Levant, Carole Lombard, Myrna Loy, Jeanette MacDonald, Tony Martin, Joan McCracken, Ray McDonald, Douglas McPhail, Una Merkel, Ann Miller, Carmen Miranda, Marilyn Monroe, Ricardo Montalban, Polly Moran, Jules Munshin, George Murphy, J. Carrol Naish, Donald O'Connor, Janis Paige, Jack Pearl, Eleanor Powell, Jane Powell, William Powell, Elvis Presley, Luise Rainer, Debbie Reynolds, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Aggie Ross, Elmira Ross, Maggie Ross, Rosaline Russell, Norma Shearer, Frank Sinatra, Ann Sothern, Clinton Sundberg, Don Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner, Lupe Velez, Vera-Ellen, Nancy Walker, Esther Williams, Francis Williams, Chill Wills, Harry Wilson, Robert Young, Roland Young

Did you know...

  • This was Gene Kelly's final screen appearance
  • Gene Kelly is the only star to host all three 'That's Entertainment' films
  • This was Debbie Reynolds' and Mickey Rooney's second time hosting a 'That's Entertainment' film

Closing remarks

Gene Kelly on the set of 'That's Entertainment III'
My favourite of all the 'That's Entertainment' films. What I like most about Part III is the presenters are all MGM musical stars, whereas Part I featured some stars who didn't make many MGM films (Bing Crosby, Donald O'Connor) or stars who didn't make many musicals (Elizabeth Taylor, James Stewart). 

Who better to present the best of MGM musicals than Ann Miller (my favourite MGM star), Esther Williams, June Allyson, Lena Horne and of course Gene Kelly!

The only bad thing about 'That's Entertainment Part III' is we are yet to see a part 4.

As of June 2012, there are a small number of MGM stars who could feature in a Part 4: Leslie Caron, Doris Day, Liza Minnelli, Marge Champion, Debbie Reynolds, Jane Powell, Esther Williams, Carleton Carpenter, Nanette Fabray, Mickey Rooney, Russ Tamblyn and Tommy Rall. That said, time is running out and sadly there may no more "That's Entertainment!"

That's Entertainment Part II (1976) - Star of the month... Elizabeth Taylor

Due to popular demand, and the success of 'That's Entertainment' (1974), we are presented with 'That's Entertainment, Part II' (1976), with even more music and even more entertainment.

In a slightly different format to the first film, 'That's Entertainment, Part II' is hosted solely by Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, and includes newly filmed musical numbers of the duo. This film also extends beyond the MGM musical, and presents clips from MGM comedies and dramas.

Designed by Saul Bass, the opening title sequence pays homage to the range and style of title sequences from films from the 1930s and early 1950s.

Highlights from 'That's Entertainment, Part II'

  • Overture - As with the first film, an overture plays
  • That's Entertainment - Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly perform a newly filmes version of 'That's Entertaiment' with new lyrics
  • The Stateroom Scene from 'a Night in the Ioera'
  • Tributes to Cyd Charisse, Lena Horne, Leslie Caron and Marge/Gower Champion
  • From This Moment On - from 'Kiss Me Kate' (1953)
  • Black and White Montage -  clips from black and white musicals such as Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy and Jimmu Durante
  • Slapstick comedy montage of Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello and Jack BEnny
  • Good Morning from 'Singin in the Rain'
  • Triplets from 'The Bandwagon'
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas from 'Meet Me in St. Louis' (1944)
  • 10 Cents a Dance - Doris Day's first appearance in a 'That's Entertainment' film
  • Special tribute to Frank Sinatra
  • Immortal stars and lines, featuring Greta Garbo "I vant to be alone", WC Fields in 'David Copperfield', Jean Harlow and Marie Dressler in 'Dinner at Eight' and Clark Gable in 'Gone With the Wind'
  • Travel Talks montage
  • France montage - Maurice Chevalier, Dinah Shore singing 'The Last Time I Saw Paris;' in 'Till The Clouds Roll By' (1943), 'I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise' and Gwen Verdon's can can
  • There's No Business Like Show Business from 'Annie, Get Your Gun' (1952)
  • Tribute to Katharine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy - both on their own and together
  • Cypress Gardens Waterski Spectacular - what better way to close the film than with Esther Williams
  • That's Entertainment (finale) - from 'The Bandwagon' (1953)
  • Exit Music 

Featured performers (in alphabetical order):

Bud Abbott, Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Mary Astor, Lew Ayres, John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Freddie Batholomew, Wallace Beery, Robert Benchley, Constance Bennett, Jack Benny, Nacio Herb Brown, Jack Buchanan, Billie Burke, James Cagney, Sammy Cahn, Louis Calhern, Leslie Caron, Gower Champion, Marge Champion, Cyd Charisse, Maurice Chevalier, Ronald Colman, Gino Corrado, Lou Costello, Jeanne Coyne, Joan Crawford, Bing Crosby, Dan Dailey, Doris Day, Robert Donat, Fifi D'Orsay, Tommy Dorsey, Melvyn Douglas, Tom Drake, Marie Dressler, Margaret Dumont, Jimmy Durante, Nelson Eddy, Cliff Edwards, Nanette Fabray, W.C. Fields, James A. Fitzpatrick, Bob Fosse, Arthur Freed, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Judy Garland, Betty Garrett, Greer Garson, Hermione Gingold, Cary Grant, Charley Grapewin, Fernand Gravey, Kathryn Grayson, Carol Haney, Oliver Hardy, Jean Harlow, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Holliday, Sterling Holloway, Lena Horne, Betty Hutton, Harry James, Allan Jones, Buster Keaton, Howard Keel, Grace Kelly, June Knight, Miliza Korjus, Hedy Lamarr, Lassie, Stan Laurel, Vivien Leigh, Oscar Levant, Myrna Loy, Jeanette MacDonald, The Marx Brothers, Chico Marx, Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Roddy McDowall, Ann Miller, Robert Montgomery, Esther Muir, Dave O'Brien, Donald O'Connor, Maureen O'Sullivan, Walter Pidgeon, Eleanor Powell, William Powell, Tommy Rall, Debbie Reynolds, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Christian Rub, Al Shean, Dinah Shore, Frank Sinatra, Red Skelton, Ann Sothern, James Stewart, Lewis Stone, Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Taylor, Marshall Thompson, Franchot Tone, Spencer Tracy, Lana Turner, USC Trojan Marching Band, Bobby Van, Gwen Verdon, Ethel Waters, David Wayne, Johnny Weissmuller, Esther Williams, Ed Wynn, Keenan Wynn, Robert Young

Fred Astaire & Gene Kelly in their second
and last appearance together

Did you know...

  • This was Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire's first appearance together in over 30 years - they last appeared together in 'Ziegfeld Follies' (1945)
  • In this film, Gene Kelly is 63 and Fred Astaire is 76 - the level of stamina they still have is impressive
  • This was Gene Kelly's last directing credit
  • This was the last time Fred Astaire danced on film
  • 18 years later, this was followed by 'That's Entertainment III' (1994), which also featured Gene Kelly
  • During the clip of 'From This Moment On' from 'Kiss Me Kate' (1948), Gene Kelly identifies Ann Miller, Tommy Rall, Bob Fosse, Carol Haney and Bobby Van, but does not identify Jeanne Coyne - Coyne was Kelly's second wife and had died from leukaemia three years earlier
  • The song "Good Morning" from 'Singin' in the Rain' (1952), was originally to appear in the first 'That's Entertainment' (1974), but cut before release 

Closing remarks

'That's Entertainment, Part II' is an entertaining compilation of film clips. I personally find this to be the least enjoyable of the three films. Sadly Part 2 does not feature any clips of MGM greats June Allyson and Mario Lanza. A notable musical number which would have been ideal for inclusion is Ann Miller's show stopping 'Too Darn Hot' from 'Kiss Me Kate' (1953).

Just One More Time (1974) - Star of the month... Elizabeth Taylor

'Just One More Time' is a 1974 short documentary film promoting the release of the feature film 'That's Entertainment!' (1974).

The short film is primarily made of footage of the hosts of 'That's Entertainment' including Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minnelli, James Stewart, Frank Sinatra, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, Mickey Rooney, Bing Crosby and Peter Lawford.

With some insightful narration and clips from some of MGM's most memorable musicals, this is a rather entertaining short film.

Did you know...

  • The song "Good Morning" from 'Singin' in the Rain' (1952) as it appears in this short with Debbie Reynolds' narration was originally to appear in 'That's Entertainment' (1974), but cut before release

50 Years of MGM - Star of the month... Elizabeth Taylor

'That's Entertainment: 50 Years of MGM' is a television special from 1974, coinciding with the premiere of the feature film 'That's Entertainment' (1974).

Hosted by George Hamilton, the special features footage from the 'That's Entertainment' premiere as well as interviews and appearances from many of MGM finest stars including:

  • June Allyson
  • Adele Astaire
  • Fred Astaire
  • George Burns
  • Marge Champion
  • Cyd Charisse
  • Jackie Cooper
  • Dan Dailey Jr
  • Vic Damone
  • Sammy David Jr.
  • Tom Drake
  • Jimmy Durante
  • Buddy Ebsen
  • Nanette Fabray
  • Glenn Ford
  • Eva Gabor
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor
  • Ava Garnder
  • Jack Haley
  • Charlton Heston
  • Howard Keel
  • Gene Kelly
  • Phyllis Kirk
  • Janet Leigh
  • Myrna Loy
  • Shirley MacLaine
  • Marjorie Main
  • Tony Martin
  • Roddy McDowell
  • Liza Minnelli
  • Dennis Morgan
  • The Nicholas Bros.
  • Merle Oberon
  • Margaret O'Brien
  • Virginia O'Brien
  • Donald O'Connor
  • Donna Reed
  • Debbie Reynolds
  • Ginger Rogers
  • Ann Rutherford
  • Alexis Smith
  • Craig Stevens
  • James Stewart
  • Gloria Swanson
  • Russ Tamblyn
  • Elizabeth Taylor
  • Audrey Totter
  • Johnny Weissmuller
  • Keenan Wynn
  • and the Great Great Grandson of Lassie

That's Entertainment (1974) - Star of the month... Elizabeth Taylor

"You can wait around and hope, but I tell you, you'll never see the likes of this again." - Frank Sinatra (as himself in 'That's Entertainment')

Gene Kelly presents a tribute to Fred Astaire
It's time to relive the music, the movies, the memories, the magic and the stars as some of MGM's greatest Hollywood stars reunite at the MGM studio to celebrate the 50th anniversary of MGM in 'That's Entertainment' (1974).

Produced, written and directed by Jack Haley Jr. (son Jack Haley, who played the Tin Man in 'The Wizard of Oz'), 'That's Entertainment' presents one of the greatest movie documentaries of all time paying tribute to the MGM musical.

Fred Astaire at the deteriorated set of 'The Bandwagon' 
'That's Entertainment' featuring special appearances from Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minnelli, James Stewart, Frank Sinatra, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, Mickey Rooney, Bing Crosby and Peter Lawford

Considered to be big risk at the time of it's release, the film turned out to be an enormous success, and became one of the highest grossing films of 1974.

Watch the film trailer:


Liza Minnelli pays tribute to her mother Judy Garland
I won't list every film and musical clip featured in 'That's Entertainment', as there are literally hundreds, but I will list and provide commentary on the highlights within the film - by the way, as you'll see there are many highlights.

  • Overture - Keeping with the tradition of the great Broadway musicals, 'That's Entertainment' commences with red velvet curtains as the overture plays a medley of MGM songs including: 'The Trolley Song', 'Over the Rainbow', 'It's a Most Unusual Day', 'Singin in the Rain' and of course the title track
  • Singin' in the Rain Montage - Following the overture, the film opens with a montage of MGMs greatest anthem 'Singin' in the Rain', from the first time it was performed by Cliff Edwards in 'The Hollywood Revue' (1929), through to Judy Garland's version in 'Little Nellie Kelly' and finally Gene Kelly (1940), Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor singing the film in 'Singin' in the Rain' (1952)
  • Frank Sinatra is the first star to make an appearance tracing the origins of the MGM musical, including clips from the first ever movie musical, 'The Broadway Melody' (1929)
  • Glamourous Elizabeth Taylor is next, sharing her musical debut as a child in the film 'Cynthia' (1947)
  • Peter Lawford provides some insights into the style and form of the MGM musical
  • James Stewart continues with the transition of silent film into talking films, and shows footage of dramatic actors (including himself) who although not singers were forced into appearing in musicals - other actors featured include Robert Montgomery, Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford and Cary Grant... the segment concludes with a special tribute to Clark Gable
  • Mickey Rooney appears outside the house where the 'Andy Hardy' series of films were made, and pays tribute to the low budget backyard musicals he made in the 1930s and 1940s with Judy Garland, and directed by Busby Berkeley
  • Gene Kelly reveals the greatest dancing partner he has ever danced with to be Fred Astaire, before going into an Astaire tribute
  • Donald O'Connor continues with a special tribute to the million dollar mermaid, Esther Williams
  • Debbie Reynolds takes us into the MGM 25th anniversary dinner, where we see footage of some great stars such as Errol Flynn, Angela Lansbury, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Claude Jarmin Jr. and Greer Garson, before paying tribute to two of my favourite stars Ann Miller and Mario Lanza
  • Showboat montage - A montage of songs from the first great musical epic 'Showboat' starring Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Marge & Gower Champion, Joe E. Brown and Ava Gardner... featured songs include 'Cotton Blossom', 'Make Believe' and the immortal 'Ol Man River'
  • Fred Astaire appears next on the deteriorated train station set from 'The Bandwagon' (1953), and reciprocates Gene Kelly's gesture with a special tribute to the great Gene Kelly
  • Liza Minnelli, labelled MGM's "crown princess", presents a special tribute to her mother, Judy Garland
  • Bing Crosby presents footage from his two MGM movies 'Going Hollywood' (1933) and 'High Society' (1956), and a special montage from the Oscar winning film 'Gigi' (1958)
  • Frank Sinatra returns and concludes with introducing an abridged version of the 'American in Paris Ballet' from 'An American in Paris' (1951)
  • Glamourous Elizabeth Taylor
    in 'That's Entertainment'
  • The theatrical experience ends with the red velvet curtains once again and exit music to entertain the audience as they leave the cinema

Debbie Reynolds in 'That's Entertainment'

Featured performers (in alphabetical order):

June Allyson, Leon Ames, Kay Armen, Edward Arnold, Fred Astaire, Ethel Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Scotty Beckett, Wallace Beery, Ray Bolger, Joe E. Brown, Virginia Bruce, Jack Buchanan, Billie Burke, Leslie Caron, Carleton Carpenter, Cyd Charisse, George Cleveland, Maurice Chevalier, Joan Crawford, Bing Crosby, Xavier Cugat, Arlene Dahl, Virginia Dale, Jacques d'Amboise, Lili Damita, Vic Damone, Gloria DeHaven, Tom Drake, Jimmy Durante, Deanna Durbin, Buddy Ebsen, Nelson Eddy, Cliff Edwards, Vera-Ellen, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Judy Garland, Betty Garrett, Greer Garson, Hermione Gingold, Cary Grant, Kathryn Grayson, Virginia Grey, Jack Haley, Jean Harlow, Bernadene Hayes, Van Heflin, Katharine Hepburn, Lena Horne, Lottice Howell, Claude Jarman Jr., Betty Jaynes, Van Johnson, Allan Jones, Jennifer Jones, Louis Jourdan, Buster Keaton, Howard Keel, Grace Kelly, Charles King, Lorraine Krueger, Burt Lahr, Fernando Lamas, Angela Lansbury, Mario Lanza, Peter Lawford, Ruta Lee, Jeanette MacDonald, Marjorie Main, Joan Marsh, Tony Martin, Douglas McPhail, Ann Miller, Sidney Miller, Carmen Miranda, Ricardo Montalban, Robert Montgomery, Agnes Moorehead, Natalie Moorhead, Dennis Morgan, Frank Morgan, Jules Munshin, George Murphy, Conrad Nagel, J. Carrol Naish, Julie Newmar, The Nicholas Brothers, Fayard Nicholas, Harold Nicholas, Margaret O'Brien, Virginia O'Brien, Donald O'Connor, Reginald Owen, Walter Pidgeon, Marc Platt, Paul Porcasi, Eleanor Powell, Jane Powell, June Preisser, Richard Quine, Tommy Rall, Debbie Reynolds, Jeff Richards, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Selena Royle, Norma Shearer, Frank Sinatra, Red Skelton, James Stewart, Paula Stone, Russ Tamblyn, Elizabeth Taylor, Sidney Toler, Audrey Totter, Spencer Tracy, William Warfield, Virginia Weidler, Esther Williams, Robert Young

Did you know...

Frank Sinatra in 'That's Entertainment'
  • 'That's Entertainment' was originally intended to be a TV special, however the concept was expanded into a feature film 
  • The success of 'That's Entertainment' was followed by two sequels
  • Gene Kelly was the first star who agreed to appear in the film and was responsible in recruiting many of the others
  • This was the last feature film to be shot at MGM studios - the studio was bulldozed and demolished for property development shortly after the film was released
  • The song "Good Morning" from 'Singin' in the Rain' (1952), was originally to appear in Debbie Reynolds section, but cut before releases - the song was later included in 'That's Entertainment, Part II' (1976), and the song with Reynolds' narration was included in the promotional short film 'Just One More Time' (1974)

Closing remarks

'That's Entertainment' is still my favourite documentary film of all time. That may be because I am such a big fan of MGM musicals, and the stars of MGM - but even without this bias, the film is entertaining and insightful to even classic film novice.

The stars are all great, however I don't feel Bing Crosby and Donald O'Connor should have appeared in this film, as they did not appear in many MGM films. I would have preferred to have seen more regular MGM stars instead, such as Ann Miller, Esther Williams or Angela Lansbury.

The only disappointment I have with 'That's Entertainment' is the complete absence of Doris Day musicals - fortunately footage of Doris Day would appear in 'That's Entertainment II' and 'That's Entertainment III'.

The tagline on the original movie poster read "That's Entertainment! Boy, do we need it now!" - we needed it then, and almost 40 years later we still need it now!

My Top Halloween pics

A 31st October ritual for me involves watching a horror movie or two. I'm often asked what my favourite horror film is & the truth is there are many. Horror is such a broad & complex genre, I love so many horror movies all for different reasons.

That said, I would love to know what your favourite horror film is so feel free to leave a comment & let me know...

Tonight I'll be watching a Japanese horror film called 'House' (1977) for the first time.

But first in this blog special edition, I thought I would share with you some of my Favourites...

This list is presented in alphabetical order:

* The Beast with 5 Fingers (1945) - good Warner Bros horror film from Thr 1940s with the great Peter Lorre

* Carrie - the original & best... My fave Stephen King story & great performances by Sissy Spacek & Piper Laurie. Brilliant Brian De Palma film

* 'Childs Play' (franchise) - the movie that proves how frightening a child's toy can be when brought to life. As Chucky says "Don't f..k with the Chuck!"

* Deep Red (1975) - Dario Argentino directs one of his best & goriest films

* 'The Evil Dead' (franchise) - if watching 5 teenagers chop each other to bits is your cup of tea, this is the film for you

* The Exorcist (1973) - Linda Blair possessed by the devil... We all know this one

* Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) - director Roman Polanski brings the right mix of horror & humor as 2 vampire hunters attempt to destroy a family of vampires. This film features the gorgeous Sharon Tate, who was murdered shortly after the film was completed by Charles Manson

* 'Friday the 13th' (franchise) - Jason Vorhees, the ultimate indestructible killing machine (& my fave movie villain). My personal fave film in the series is Part 3

* Halloween (1978) - Michael Myers stalking Jamie Lee Curtis in a house for nearly 90 mins, and still entertaining. Extremely well made for a semi-amateur film & I love the theme music

* House of Wax (both versions) - Vincent Price at his best in the original... Paris Hilton dies in the remake, what more could you want?

* Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte (1963) - the best way to describe this film is a horror version of Gone With the Wind. Bette Davis & Olivia de Havilland are both fantastic & Mary Astor gives us something special in her final film performance

* Lady in a Cage (1964) - Olivia de Havilland is terrorized in her own home after being trapped in an elevator in her home

* Mark of the Vampire (1932) - not very scary but we get to see Bela Lugosi play a vampire... Yes please!! Good twist in the end

* 'Nightmare on Elm Street' (franchise) - Freddy Krueger... Enough said!

* Peeping Tom (1960) - a wonderful British thriller I discovered when studying film at uni. Sadly very underrated today.

* 'Piranha' (franchise) - The original films are fun, but I prefer the remake which I think I've watched at least 5 times this year.

* Psycho (1960) - Alfred Hitchcock killing his heroine & star halfway through the film was a brave move & he got away with it. The film that will make you scared to take a shower.

* The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) - an excellent film adaptation of the Isvar Wilde novel (my fave fiction book too). I watch this film often & enjoy it more & more each time. A film anyone can relate to. I mean who hasn't wished they would stay young forever. Look out for a young Angela Lansbury in this one.

* Poltergeist (1982) - a film which deserved better at the Oscar awards, sadly not winning anything. Zelda Rubinstein saying "Step into the light, Carol Anne" will be with you forever

* Prom Night (1979) - Jamie Lee Curtis in an early film role. Watchable & enjoyable

* Rosemary's Baby (1968) - my favourite demon spawn film stars Mia Farrow & directed by Roman Polanski

* Scream (franchise) - Wes Craven's greatest success (in my opinion)

* The Shining (1980) - Brilliant performance by Jack Nicholson in one of Stanley Kubrick's greatest films... "Heerrrree's Johnny!!"

* Suspiria (1977) - Dario Argento's masterpiece in my opinion

* Theatre of Blood (1973) - clever Vincent Price horror offering about a Shakespearean actor gaining revenge in his critics

* Whatever Happened ti Baby Jane (1962) - very grey area as to whether this is really a horror film, but it is fun to see Bette Davis terrorise Joan Crawford

And now it's time for the movie to begin...

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Playing Cat & Mouse (2006) - Star of the month... Elizabeth Taylor

'Cat On A Hot Tin Roof: Playing Cat and Mouse' is a short 10 minute retrospective featurette on the film 'Cat On a Hot Tin Roof' (1958).

The documentary features interviews with:
  • Tennessee Williams' biographer Donald Spoto
  • author Drew Casper
  • author Eric Lax
  • actress Madeleine Sherwood
The featurette discusses how 'Cat On a Hot Tin Roof' became a turning point in the careers for both Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman. It also compares Brick's relationship with Big Daddy in the film to the real-life relationship Paul Newman had with his father. There is also some background to the death of Elizabeth Taylor's husband Mike Todd, who was tragically killed in a plane crash during filming.
The highlight for me was hearing Madeleine Sherwood, who appeared in the film talk about her experiences making this amazing movie.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) - Star of the month... Elizabeth Taylor

"Maggie the Cat is alive! I'm alive!" - Elizabeth Taylor (as Maggie in 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof')

'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' is a 1958 drama directed by Richard Brooks and starring Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Burt Ives, Judith Anderson, Jack Carson and Madeleine Sherwood.

Based on the Pulitzer prize-winning play by Tennessee Williams, it became one of the biggest box office hits of 1958.

Brick Pillitt is a former football player who breaks his ankle after he jumps hurdles under the influence of alcohol. As a result, Brick spends the rest of the film on a crutch. The next day, Brick and his wife Maggie (played by Taylor) visit Brick's family home for the 65th birthday of his father, Big Daddy (played by Ives). Also visiting are Brick's brother Gooper (played by Carson), his wife Mae (played by Sherwood) and their five bratty children. 

Watch the trailer:

Key relationships

The basic premise of the film is an in-depth examination of key relationships among the various family members. I will comment on the two key relationships, Maggie & Brick, and Brick & Big Daddy.

Firstly, the troubled relationship between husband and wife, Brick and Maggie. Brick's recently deceased best friend Skipper is also an important part of this relationship bringing about a love triangle. Tied into this relationship are the themes of sexual desire, and sexual repression. Maggie is desperate for Brick to make love to her, but Brick does not show any interest. Maggie is confused about what Brick's issue is, "Where did I fail you? Where did I make my mistake?" Although the couple live together, Maggie does not feel it. She tells Brick,"I'm not living with you! We occupy the same cage that's all!" 

Secondly, we have the detached relationship between Brick and his father. From the beginning of the film, we get a sense of some tension, but we don't know exactly what this is. Once we see Big Daddy and Brick talking in the cellar, Big Daddy asks Brick what he never gave him, to which Brick replies: "You can't buy love."

Key themes

Paul Newman & Elizabeth Taylor in an early
scene in the film
Key themes in the film include greed and death.

The film explores greed, and in particular family greed, with Gooper and Mae who use their five children and crawling tactics to scheme and take the family inheritance. Maggie fights back and tries to protect her husband's inheritance by lying she is pregnant.

The film also explores the concept of death, and the way in which the characters face death, particularly Big Daddy. At the start of the film, we learn Big Daddy has been sent away due to ill health. When he returns, we are told he has fully recovered. Shortly after, we learn the doctor had lied to Big Daddy, and he is in fact going to die. Once Big Daddy discovers the truth, we travel with him on his emotional response journey from denial, resistance, exploration to acceptance of his inevitable fate. Big Daddy even says to Brick: "I've got the guts to die. What I want to know is, have you got the guts to live?"

Censored for the screen

Tennessee Williams was angered by the way in which the strict Hays Production Code forced changes to his original play.  A notable component was the way in which the film adaptation limits Brick's sexual desire for Skipper, and removes the original play's critique on homophobia and sexism.

Did you know...

  • Burt Ives and Madeleine Sherwood reprise the roles they created on Broadway
  • Ben Gazzara played the role of Brick on Broadway, but turned down the role in the film
  • Don Murray was considered for the role of Brick
  • Elvis Presley turned down the role of Brick
  • Grace Kelly & Lana Turner were considered for the role of Maggie
  • George Cukor turned the chance to direct this film
  • Playwright Tennessee Williams disliked the film adaptation so much, he told people waiting to see the film to go home 
  • Due to a musicians union strike, the film lacks a traditional music score composed specifically for the film - instead the music score features pre-recorded pieces of music from the MGM music library, much of which was composed for the film 'Tension' (1949)
  • The film was originally meant to be filmed in black and white, however director Brooks insisted the film be in colour due to Elizabeth Taylor's violet coloured eyes, and Paul Newman's blue eyes
  • Burt Ives (who plays Big Daddy) was only one year older than Jack Carson, who plays his eldest son, and 16 years older than Paul Newman, who plays his youngest son

Award nominations

  • Academy Award nomination for Best Picture
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Actor (Paul Newman)
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Actress (Elizabeth Taylor)
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Director
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Writing, screenplay based on another medium
  • BAFTA Award nomination for Best Film from any Source
  • BAFTA Award nomination for Best Foreign Actor (Paul Newman)
  • BAFTA Award nomination for Best Foreign Actress (Elizabeth Taylor)
  • Directors Guide of America nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures
  • Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture - Drama
  • Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Director
  • Golden Lauren award for Top Female Dramatic Performance (Elizabeth Taylor)
  • Golden Lauren nomination for Top Male Dramatic Performance (Paul Newman)
  • National Board of Review Award winner for Top Ten Films
  • Writer's Guild of America Award nomination for Best Written American Drama

Closing remarks

'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' is one of my favourite dramatic films, and is my favourite Elizabeth Taylor film. I like the way in which the film delves into family relationships and gradually unpacks the catalysts for the relationships throughout the film.

The entire cast delivers fantastic performers. In my opinion this is both the best performances Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman ever delivered. The only bad thing I can say about the acting is Australian actress Judith Anderson, occasionally loosing her accent and saying a few words here and there in an Australian accent. This may appear more obvious to me, as I am Australian, but other than, she does a great job.

I would consider 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' to be co-best film of 1958 with the MGM musical 'Gigi', which won the Best Picture Oscar (and is my second favourite film).

Friday, 19 October 2012

Conspirator (1949) - Star of the month... Elizabeth Taylor

"I'm trying to decide if I'm in love with you, or if I'm just obsessed with you" - Elizabeth Taylor (as Melinda in 'Conspirator')

'Conspirator' is a 1949 British thriller directed by Victor Saville and starring Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Taylor (the two Taylors, although they were not related) with Robert Flemyng, Honor Blackman and Wilfred Hyde-White.

Young American Melinda Grayton (played by Elizabeth Taylor) whilst in London, where meets British soldier Major Michael Curragh (played by Robert Taylor). After they are married Melinda discovers Michael has a secret double life; he is a traitor working for the Soviet Union. Michael is then ordered by the KGB to kill Melinda in order to silence her.

Anti-communist propaganda

The film to a degree can be viewed as a warning statement to potential socialists, about the consequences of supporting the Communist party. While most anti-communist films of the 1940s and 1950s are often of a low quality, 'Conspirator' is probably the best I have seen so far. What I think makes this film so powerful is the choice the character of Michael Curragh of forced to make... loyalty to his wife (who he loves) or to the Communist party. As usual the Community party is depicted to be an evil and correct institution, happy to bump off anyone who gets in their way.

Did you know...

  • Robert Taylor was 38 when he made this film, and Elizabeth Taylor was only 17
  • The film was banned in Finland at the time of its release due influence from Russia

Closing remarks

'Conspirator' is an underrated film giving us a fine performance from Robert Taylor as the villain and  Elizabeth Taylor's first film as a young woman. I like the way the opening credits show footage of cars driving over London Bridge. This was an effective way of setting the scene for the film spectator, and reminding us that although we are about to see two of Hollywood's biggest stars, the film is set (and made) in England.

One of Elizabeth Taylor's more obscure films, and sadly often forgotten, 'Conspirator' is an above average b-film worth a watch.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Cynthia (1947) - Star of the month... Elizabeth Taylor

'Cynthia' is a 1947 drama starring Elizabeth Taylor, Mary Astor, George Murphy, Gene Lockhart, Spring Byington and S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall.

Cynthia (played by Taylor) is a 15 year old who gets sick often and lives with her overprotective parents. She befriends a dog, but is unable to keep it, due to being allergic to dogs.  After the landlord puts the family home up for sale, Cynthia's parents are forced to chose whether they should attempt to purchase the home or move away. 

The film's musical program features some memorable MGM songs including "Buckledown Winsockie" from 'Best Foot Forward' (1943) and "The Trolley Song" from 'Meet Me In St. Louis' (1944).

Early example of feminism

This film is an early example of feminism in cinema. It is Cynthia's mother who dominates the relationship in her marriage. She is the one with the wealthy inheritance, she is the one who permits Cynthia to attend the prom, she is the one who makes the final decision on whether or not to buy the house, and she is the one who leads her husband through his journey of self discovery.

Closing remarks

'Cynthia' stats off rather slow with the first hour dragging on quite a bit, but it does get better. I think of 'Cynthia' as one of the original mean girls movies, with Cynthia's malicious cousin Fredonia deliberately sabotaging her chance at happiness at school. That is until Cynthia grows the courage to bite back. Elizabeth Taylor delivers a great performance in this film, and we are also treated to a rare singing appearance.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Mirror Crack'd (1980) - Star of the month... Elizabeth Taylor

"Out flew the web and floated wide - the mirror crack'd from side to side; 'The curse is come upon me', cried the Lady of Shalott." - Angela Lansbury (as Miss Marple in 'The Mirror Crack'd')

'The Mirror Crack'd' is a 1980 Agatha Christie murder mystery directed by Guy Hamilton and starring Angela Lansbury as Miss Marple, with Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, Kim Novak, Geraldine Chaplin, Edward Fox and Charles Gray.

The film is based on the Agatha Christie novel "The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side". 

Kim Novak, Rock Hudson & Elizabeth Taylor in the film
Set in 1953, American star Marina Rudd (played by Taylor) and her director husband Jason Rudd (played by Hudson) have visitied the town of St. Mary Meades to make a movie on 'Mary, Queen of Scots & Elizabeth I'. Co-starring with Marina is her rival Lola Brewster (played by Novak), who was cast due to her husband Marty Fenn (played by Curtis) producing the film.

Shortly after arriving, Marina meets a devoted fan, Heather Babcock (played by Maureen Bennett) who is poisoned shortly after meeting her. As Heather drank a cocktail which was made for Marina, it is presumed Marina was the intended murder victim and she becomes paranoid.

It is now up to Miss Marple (played by Lansbury) and her detective nephew Inspector Craddock to solve the mystery before Marina or anyone else is killed.

Watch some clips from the film

Did you know...

  • The title of the film is taken from the poem "The Lady of Shalott" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • Natalie Wood turned down the role of Marina Rudd due to disagreeing with cast billing and the way the character was being portrayed
  • The last film appearances of Anthony Steel, Dinah Sheridan and Charles Lloyd Pack
  • Angela Lansbury was only 54 when she portrayed the elderly Miss Marple 
  • Stars Angela Lansbury, Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis were all born in the same year, 1925
  • Keep your eye out for an early film appearance by Pierce Brosnan as James
  • The movie was filmed at Twickenham Film Studios in Twickenham, London, and on location in Kent
  • The poster for the pretend film within a film "Murder at Midnight", features the real actor's names appearing in the sequence
  • After this film, Angela Lansbury was meant to star in a second Miss Marple film "Appointment with Murder", but it did not eventuate
  • The third Agatha Christie movie in the Brabourne-Goodwin series, following 'Murder onthe Orient Express' (1974) and 'Death on the Nile' (1978)
  • Production for this film was delayed as a year as Angela Lansbury was starring in the Broadway production of 'Sweeney Todd'

Award nomination....

  • Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Film Saturn award nomination for Best Actress (Angela Lansbury)

Closing remarks

'The Mirror Crack'd' is an entertaining Agatha Christie mystery. Angela Lansbury was very game to take on the role as Miss Marple, especially after the brillant portryal of Miss Marple by the great Margaret Rutherford in four films. Although Lansbury's performance is not bad, I can't help comparing it to Rutherford's fantastic portrayal. That said, we finally see Elizabeth Taylor give one of her better performances of her late career.

Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak are both fantastic in their roles as the bickering rival film stars. This film would have been a perfect film for Bette Davis and Joan Crawford had it been made 15 years earlier.