Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas Again!

At the risk of stealing the thunder of the Internet's foremost Doris Day Show chronicler, good buddy and Friend of the Site Ivan at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, I want to say Merry Christmas again. I mean, really, should we be that quick to discard the holiday so soon and move on? I say let it linger a bit. But it's not just ME wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. No, it's Doris herself. Look at her. She's talking right to us!

And let me tell you, folks, if a major star has Rose Marie, Denver Pyle, Paul Smith, and McLean Stevenson (not to mention, uh, two kids and a dog) at her pad, yet she still takes the time to wish YOU season's greetings, you should be flattered!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Because Bob Newhart is still awesome enough to make this hat look cool, and also because we can say another good-bye to Marcia Wallace....

From all of us to all you, Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

That sneaky Alice! (Happy Christmas Eve)

I watched the Brady Bunch's Christmas episode, "The Voice of Christmas" for the first time in years recently. I actually screened it with the kids, and seeing it with them really made this corny, ol' show come to life again for me. They loved it.

One thing about this episode bothers me, though. Alice is trying to hide a gift, and she is snooping around in Mike and Carol's bedroom for a spot to stash a sizable package. First she opens a closet:

Then she opens another closet. The Bradys sure had plenty of closet space (please hold your Robert Reed jokes).

Next she tries under the bed, because no one ever looks there for a gift, right?

Groovy wrapping paper, right? Problem is she bumps into something, which makes her realize her spot isn't as original as she thought:

So Alice gives up, and as you can tell by the look on her face, she is disgusted because she actually has to...

Put the gift IN HER OWN ROOM!

Seriously, Alice has her own quarters, an area in which no one else, with the obvious exception of Sam the Butcher ever enters. She has the perfect place to store a present. Yet she goes peeping around the Bradys' master bedroom. What exactly is Alice hiding under HER bed, hmm?

Here's hoping your presents are safe and sound tonight!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Awesome 80's Video #4: "She's Right on Time" by Billy Joel

It's time for a special CHRISTMAS edition of the Awesome 80's video, and today I spotlight a song which, were it not for the clip, I wouldn't associate with the holidays at all. But, oh, what a Christmas video it is! From "The Nylon Curtain" LP, I give you...

She’s Right on Time

Yes, it's the Long Island Lover himself, Billy Joel, in this 1982 clip, which offers a very Joelian melody and certainly features Billyian—nah, I prefer Joelian—singing throughout. I don’t think I ever heard this on the radio, though, and the video never seems to make it into those holiday video blocks you see despite the first line talking about turning on all the Christmas lights because baby’s coming home tonight. He doesn’t sing about jingle bells in the song, but the video shows him trimming the tree, so that’s more than enough to make it a holiday video in my book. Or at least on my blog.

Actually, Joel or whoever conceived this video (probably not Joel) decided not to sentimentalize the love song, but rather to go the other way and make a farce. Here the regular guy appeal of Joel works like a charm. He’s primping and looks well groomed and has a bunch of photos in his pad that suggest he gets around, but lest you think he’s trying to play some macho stud, look at what happens in the video. While his woman makes her way over, he readies his place with disastrous results. I mean, one goofy thing after another happens. Stuff falls, crashes, sparks literally fly, the place is a mess, there is kind of a false end to the song, then an even bigger accident happens, and all the while Joel—not exactly the master thespian—provides just enough of a nonchalant but mildly concerned deadpan to carry it along. At least, I think he’s underplaying. The important thing is this video just gives us a good series of funny mishaps. And did I mention this video BREAKS STUFF? In the span of 4 minutes, Joel somehow does even more damage here than he has in almost 50 years of getting behind the wheel.

If this weren’t enough, his ladyfriend experiences her own calamities while walking to Billy’s apartment, though breaking a heel doesn’t exactly compare to nearly setting a good chunk of Manhattan ablaze. Still, she shows up at the door as weary as Joel is, and they finally get together. Here we notice something remarkable: Joel’s girlfriend is African-American. She actually has that classic 1984/1985 young black woman look, in hairstyle, makeup, even skin tone, which is pretty remarkable considering it’s 1982. They don’t make a big deal out of it, or any deal out of it, and maybe I should feel embarrassed for doing so myself, but, hey, you got to respect this video’s cultural relevance considering that the finale features the first interracial kiss on television.

NOTE: Don’t let the fact that Kirk and Uhura kissed 15 years earlier make that last sentence any less relevant. Also, ignore the fact that they don’t actually kiss at the end but just gently kind of nuzzle their heads together. Hey, forget it, I’m on a roll. Besides, it is actually a sweet ending. After all, as Billy himself sang, “Leave a Tender Moment Alone.”

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Instant Gratification Theater: Christmas options on streaming video

You might have your stack of Christmas DVDs next to the tube already, all arranged for holiday week viewing, but if you're looking for some lesser-known streaming video options this year, I recommend the following:

Hulu Plus: This service irritated me by yanking season 1 of "Kojak," but thankfully it retained season 3, which features the Christmas episode "How Cruel the Frost, How Bright the Stars." Is that title poetic or pretentious or both? YOU make the call, but make sure you go ahead and click on the episode because it's a doozy.

I will avoid spoiling all the surprises in this one, but let me tell you to look for no fewer than 3 cameos by future 1980s TV icons. Look for Theo Kojak's wistful memories of the New York City in which he grew up, contrasted to what it had become (remember, this is 1975), and a classic exclamation he shouts to no one in particular at the end of the episode that alone justifies a month's fee of Hulu Plus.

Along the way, Kojak helps some hookers with a heart of gold, does a good deal of crimestopping (and a lot--I mean, this is no deskbound cop, to be sure, but as I told my pal when touting this episode, they don't call the show "Crocker") and spreads some holiday cheer at the office party by graciously accepting, even embracing, a gag gift. Kojak is the man, and this episode deserves place in anyone's classic TV Christmas festival.

Also on Hulu is something billed as "Bing Crosby: White Christmas Show." This is a USO production from 1956 aimed at servicemen and packed--just packed, I tells ya--with stars. Best of all, it wins me over immediately by having all the celebs introduce themselves at the beginning like they're All-Americans coming out on a Bob Hope special. Some of them play it straight, but some do a little bit of business, with even Der Bingle doing a little "cough take" with his pipe as he says his name.

The rest of the 90-some minutes features comedy bits, songs, and awkward interstitial segments with the likes of Dick Powell , Gregory Peck, and Kim Novak introducing acts in a kind of quasi-rap as a jazzy beat plays. Some of it is beautiful, some of it is great, and some of it is quite dated--I'm always wary of "comic monologues" from long ago, but you have to see Dick Shawn's rock and roller parody--but all of it is entertaining. Although most of the content is not explicitly connected to Christmas, it is a great piece of holiday cheer for the whole family or even for just the enthusiast of classic Hollywood and TV. You'll see Jack Benny, Jimmy Stewart, Danny Kaye, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong, a monologue from Hope himself, and much, much more.

YouTube: I'm not going to link to it because I have a paranoid fear that linking to anything on YouTube makes it more likely someone will force it down, but most if not all Dr. Katz episodes are available, including Season 1, episode 10, "Office Management." This one has routines by Ray Romano and Carol Leifer and, more germane to this post, the good doctor attempting to throw an "office party" and engage receptionist Laura in the fun. The results, of course, are hilarious.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Wonderful World of TCM: Holiday Affair redux AND a bonusaa

Yes, it's finally time once again for me to revisit The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind (ka-ching! Hey, wait...). Rare is the time these days I get a chance to sit and watch an entire film as it unfolds on Turner Classic Movies, but I made a special effort to plunk myself down in a chair at Cultureshark Tower when the network screened Holiday Affair (1949) last weekend.

I've written about this movie before, so let me see if I can add anything new this time. Somehow "Holiday Affair" has become one of my favorites. It's a relatively unassuming and underappreciated Christmas classic, but I feel incomplete if I don't at least see a good chunk of it each season. In that older post I talked about how the the courtroom scene stood out for me, with Harry Morgan's sardonic judge trying to walk away with the whole movie. This time, it's a cool scene with star Robert Mitchum and second banana/hapless soon-to-be ex-boyfriend Wendell Corey trying to make chitchat while they wait for Janet Leigh to come back in the room. They exchange banalities about the weather while trying to hide their mutual suspicion from each other...or maybe not. Mitchum's reactions in this scene are particularly priceless. Just the way he cocks an eyebrow and gives an offhand "Is that so?" cracks me up. Mitchum plays Steve Mason as a guy who knows he is going to take Janet Leigh from Corey, who knows that Corey knows it, and is just doing the bare minimum to maintain the pretense of NOT knowing it..but is amused by the whole thing.

Another highlight comes when Mitch drops the pretense and, after being invited to join the widow Leigh and her little boy, her current boyfriend, and her former in-laws for Christmas dinner, makes a speech about Janet should marry HIM instead of the lame lawyer sitting 3 feet away. Sure, they ask him to say a few words, but I think the table is expecting something more along the lines of "God rest ye merry gentlemen." Bob says, "Well, you asked for it," but goes ahead and says what's on his mind, pointing out how it's probably better to do that than to go around behind Corey's back. Of course this speech only makes Mitchum's no-BS character only cooler and Corey's Carl Davis all the more hapless.

I quoted him last time, but the line stands out 5 years later, so let me again tell you what poor Carl Davis has to say to Janet Leigh's gorgeous young widow: "You look like a tired beautiful girl instead of just a beautiful girl." Pardon me while I regurgitate my egg nog. There's a reason I haven't put any spoiler tags in here when mentioning that Mitchum is gonna take Leigh away.

I watched Ben Mankiewiecz's intro and learned that this box office disappointment opened on Christmas Eve. Really? These days, any Christmas movie that thinks it has a chance to make any money opens by Thanksgiving and tries to milk the season for as long as it can. It's not for nothing that I'm talking about this movie today instead of December 26.

If you want to see this TCM perennial again or for the first time and don't have the DVD, TCM is playing it again Christmas Eve at 4:15. Tell 'em Cultureshark sent you. And tell 'em he appreciates that B-Mank gives it its props and that the channel runs it every year. Oh, and also, "Holiday Affair" is currently available On Demand on my cable system in the TCM section.

Speaking of On Demand, TCM's corner of that universe has changed a bit in recent months. In its CONcast incarnation, it used to offer a group of movies for about a month at a time. Now it seems like the offerings are rotated much more frequently and a broader range of titles are offered. Last week I saw the 1936 RKO football picture "The Big Game," and I recommend it as a fun early sports movie, except it's already gone from the On Demand lineup.

Phillip Huston and Bruce Cabot star as college football players, and there are cameos by a host of real-life gridiron stars, including Jay Berwanger, the first ever Heisman winner. Apart from the frequent comic relief provided by Andy Devine's overage player named "Pop" (because he has a wife and kids, see), the movie is a fairly tough look at some serious issues affecting the game in those days: Gambling, exploitation of amateurs by money-making universities, unethical operations in athletic departments...Gee, it's a good thing we don't have to worry about any of those things anymore, huh? There is a remarkable speech one player gives about wanting to get HIS since the system is using all of them that could fit right in during a modern-day football flick.

"The Big Game" isn't the best old-time college football movie--that of course is "Horsefeathers"--but I never see it discussed in conversations about sports films, and it deserves a look. I don't remember seeing it run on TCM, actually, which made catching it On Demand a real delight. Check it out if it returns or if it shows up on the network proper.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

This Week in DVD and Instant Watching--Pre-Holiday Week edition

Elysium: This didn't look all that hot to me, but I loved "District 9," so I'll check out anything done by the guy who directed that. "Elysium" is about...uh, dystopia of some kind...and Matt Damon has a shaved head. Geez, I've already forgotten much of what the deal is with this. That's not necessarily a knock on the movie. I just have a lot on my mind what with the holidays and all, you know.

The Family: Believe it or not, there was once a time when Robert DeNiro was typecast in gritty crime movies and not wacky comedies about oddball families.

The Lone Ranger: Eh, a big budget Western with an unknown as the "star" and the box office draw playing the sidekick. What could possibly go wrong? Purists would love to say they screwed with the classic mythology, I'm sure, but really, I don't think the character has much cachet anymore, and it saddens me to say that. I think the movie just didn't look all that great. Well, now we can all judge it for ourselves. Or we could just watch a bunch of episodes of the old TV show.

Prisoners: Hugh Jackman AS YOU'VE NEVER SEEN HIM BEFORE! Except maybe when he PLAYED THE WOLVERINE! Only this time, he's not a superhero but AN ACTUAL DUDE! And he's pissed and looking for RETRIBUTION!

One Direction: This Is Us: Morgan Spurlock followed the band for this documentary film. He probably would rather eat Big Macs for 30 days again.

Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters and Kick-Ass 2: These movies have a lot in common. They're both relatively unheralded, underperforming sequels, they both...uh, well, maybe they don't have a lot in common. Yeah, don't show "Kick-Ass 2" to your kids when you're looking for something to watch as a family on Christmas night.

Justified Season 4: I'd really love to try to get into "Justified" again, but not if I have to get Amazon Prime to see the old episodes. Everything should be on Netflix or Hulu until/unless I get Amazon Prime. What? Sounds like a reasonable philosophy to me.

Sound of Music Live: Well, jeez, it's not live NOW, is it? I fully expect a class action lawsuit to be filed any day now.

Shameless Season 3: I've never seen an episode of this Showtime series, but after seeing Emmy Rossum's photo shoot for "Esquire," well, let's just say I'd consider giving it a watch.

And in streaming...

Sadly, Warner Archive Instant apparently took the week off and added nothing new this weekend. Bummer! Hulu seems to add a handful of new anime and Korean programs each week, but I really don't know anything about them and, frankly, don't get excited.

Netflix added David Chase's Not Fade Away with James Gandolfini, and that's the big must-queue for me. There are also 2013 comedy specials from Dave Foley and Greg Fitzsimmons.

Lilyhammer Season 2 is here. That's right, an entire season of a Netflix original. Yet this is getting about 5% of the publicity that the trailer for Season 2 of "House of Cards" got.

Other new adds include Our Nixon, a documentary centered around home movies of Richard Nixon; and Stranded, which features Christian Slater as an astronaut dealing with some kind of alien spore menace. I'm strangely interested in both of these. You can stream the latest Diablo Cody joint, Paradise, which sadly has nothing to do with the classic Phoebe Cates/Willie Aames "Blue Lagoon" ripoff. And I don't know anything about Blood except that it's a gritty crime movie with Paul Bettany, Mark Strong, and Brian Cox, and that's at least worth a queue position.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mag Rack #2: Shocking Secrets of America's Favorite TV Shows of the '50s and '60s

Will you lose what little respect you had for me if I told you I bought this "Globe Collector's Issue" at the bookstore? Will it help if I told you I used a gift card?

Hey, I couldn't resist. It's classic TV, it's tabloid, it's glossy, and it has a picture of Ralph and Alice Kramden (along with many other icons of the medium) on the cover. I figured I'd gamble a virtual 6 bucks and take home the thin but spiffy-looking mag.

The 80-some pages go by quickly. Each show gets maybe a few pages at most, many a page or even half a page, and the photos are so big that you don't really get a lot of substance here. I know, I know, we're talking about a publication of that mass-market tabloid "The Globe." But still, while I'm not expecting a dissertation on each show's impact on popular culture by Professor Robert J. Thompson, it would be nice to get a little more content.

Those photos are purty, but I don't think there are a lot of new or rare shots here. Many entries are illustrated with the same publicity pics we've seen for decades. There are some nice extras, though. For example, while the "Honeymooners" section offers that same shot of the 4 Classic 39 cast members poking their heads through the windows of a Gotham bus, then the standard still of the 4 in the Kramdens' apartment (you'd know it if you saw it), it also features a rarer black-and-white pic of a Lost Episode segment with Pert  Kelton as Alice, plus a behind-the-pic glimpse of Art Carney rehearsing a "Twilight Zone" appearance. And of course, this being a tabloid pub, you get a few unflattering shots of stars as they looked years later or as they look today.

Let's talk about these scandals, though: Are they really Shocking and Secret? Much of the gossip in this mag is old news to anyone who has followed the tabloids for years or who has more than a surface knowledge of TV history. Yet there is something to be said for having all of it in one place. We get stories about alcoholism, behind-the-scenes squabbles, and affairs. Sometimes the writers have to strain to come up with anything remotely scandalous, as with "My Favorite Martian," which gets a short entry that basically says Ray Walston resented being known for the role. Big whoop, right?

There are some things here that surprise me, like Jane Kean saying in her recent memoir that Ed Sullivan raped her when she was 17. If I ever heard that one before, I blocked it out. Nor did I know or particularly want to that Edd Byrnes once had a threesome that involved Roger Moore. Aw, who am I kidding? I bought this thing, didn't I? I also didn't know that Clint Walker claimed to have seen a UFO. No, he didn't claim he had sex with an alien. Not everything in here is salacious.

Some of it just sad, really. Even though this publication is a slim time-passer, I sometimes wish it went a little deeper. For example, one of the big controversies for which I don't think we have a definitive answer is the saga of "Make Room for Daddy" and why star Danny Thomas canned first-season wife Jean Hagen and replaced her with Marjorie Lord. This mag mentions the change and Hagen's struggles in her personal life, but only says that she quit the show and was killed off. Gossip I've seen over the years indicates that Thomas went so far as to try to prevent Hagen episodes from being seen again, and I've also seen interesting speculation as to why he would do that. But "The Globe" doesn't address that at all.

The focus here is more on personal lives than on those kind of creative issues, and I'd love to see some of those kinds of mysteries explored somewhere. However, for 6 bucks, this is a pretty good summary of dirt from the Golden Age of Television, and while you get a lot of the usual suspects (George Reeves, Adam West and Burt Ward, Lucy and Desi), between the regular entries and a short catch-all section of paragraphs at the end, you also see info about Steve Allen, Lawrence Welk, "Wagon Train," and "Julia." So it's a pretty good cross-section of 50's and 60's TV. I'd buy another one of these things without shame. Well, not too much shame. I might not brag about it here, but I might well buy it, read it quickly, and enjoy it.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Stuff I scrambled to see on Netflix before it expired

One of the "fun" things about having a Netflix account is finding out only a week or two ahead of time that something in your queue is gonna go bye-bye. Would it be nice to have more notice? Aw, Netflix thinks that's crazy talk!

These two movies expire next weekend, so check 'em out soon if you're interested:

44-Inch Chest: This British crime flick--well, sort of a crime flick, in that it has criminals and we see some crimes committed--didn't get great reviews, but if a movie with Ray Winstone, Tom Wilkinson, Ian McShane, John Hurt, and Stephen Dillane comes to Instant Watching, I'm at least gonna add it to my queue, all right? In fact, it's not a great movie. It's basically a bunch of cool character actors sitting around shooting the bull and breaking balls. But you're not paying 11 bucks to see it in a theater at this point, and if you look at it in that light, well, it's a pretty good way to spend 90 minutes on streaming.

Ray Winstone reminds me of a British Nick Nolte with his disheveled, raspy, mumbling performance as a cuckold who laments being dumped by his wife (the still-ravishing Joanne Whaley). So he and his gangster pals get together and talk things over. For a while they're even joined by an unwilling visitor--the French waiter who's been sleeping with Ray's wife.

Winstone gets the acting-0est part here, doing a lot of fretting and emoting. Wilkinson and Dillane are pretty much what you'd expect, and I don't at all mean that as a negative. McShane's character is gay, and I don't at all mean THAT as a negative; it's just that, in addition to being measured and calm, that is pretty much the character. You have to admire that in a flick with this kind of cast, the movie gives the scene-stealing outrageous part to Hurt, who is the crankiest, nastiest, most animated git in the bunch. He looks like he's having a great time.

Some artsy interludes aside, this doesn't add up to very much, but there are worse things to do than watch these guys banter. It's worth a look-see while it's still around.

Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and "To Kill a Mockingbird": Does this documentary sound familiar to you? It did me, as well, but it wasn't until I started watching it that I realized I had in fact seen it 3 years ago. In my defense, though, I didn't recognize it since it wasn't under its original title: "American Masters: Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and 'To Kill a Mockingbird'." See? Totally different, for all I knew.

Once I started watching it, I figured I might as well revisit it, and I was doing a few other things around the house while it ran, but it's a quality piece of work from filmmaker  Mary Murphy. It covers the background of the reclusive author and why she hasn't given an interview in 50 years, the creation of the iconic novel, the film adaptation, and even her friendship with Truman Capote and the rumors that he had something to do with the writing of "Mockingbird."

There aren't any "AHA!" revelations, but you do get a good look at an author who still has some mystique about her as well as some insight into one of the most scrutinized works of the 20th century. It's another winner from the "American Masters" series and, again, well worth checking out on Netflix.

Friday, December 13, 2013

This Week in DVD and Instant Watching

We skipped a week, sure, but this is still the longest-running more or less continuous feature in the history of...this blog. In that spirit we march on this week:

The Fast and Furious 6: Out of respect to the late Paul Walker, we refrain from any snarky comments about this franchise. We do, however, retain the option to make a wise-ass remark about Vin Diesel at any time in the near future.

Despicable Me 2: I'm at the point in my life now when I judge many movies on the quality of their tie-in ties. For a while, the little aliens from this movie were ubiquitous in Happy Meals. The first time my kids got one, eh, kind of cute. But the second time, it was like, didn't we just get one of these? Only maybe holding a slightly different accessory? So I view this sequel with a wary eye.

Battle of the Year: Remember the brooding bad boy who captivated television audiences for years on "Lost"? Now he's in a breakdancing movie!

Mary Poppins 50th Anniversary Edition: It seems like a new edition of this comes out ever few years, but I'm sure this one is a public service offered by Disney to give an optimized version of the product to fans who will be interested by the forthcoming feature film Saving Mr. Banks about Walt Disney's effort to adapt the original novels. It is certainly not a cash grab.

Doc Martin Series 6: I watched this latest (and last?) batch of episodes, unaired as yet on American broadcast TV, via Acorn Online (I owe you guys a post on Acorn, don't I?). I thought the first episode was strained, and I wondered if it was time to hang it up, but the rest of the season was pretty good. The show has passed its peak, perhaps, but I still enjoy the setting and the characters, and I imagine you will, too. Still, you might want to wait for these to run on PBS before you buy the DVDs.

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special: I've gone 50 years (well, the ones that I've been alive for) without getting into Doctor Who, and I don't know if I'm ready to start now. Actually, I may be nuts, but I'd be more inclined to start with old black-and-white episodes from 50 years ago. Maybe someday I'll take the plunge, though.

And in streaming...

Speaking of Acorn, it's monthly adds effective December 1 include Australian (hey, it ain't just UK stuff at Acorn) series Mr. and Mrs. Murder, Martin Clunes' romantic dramedy William & Mary, Northern Lights, Under Capricorn, a 1990s supernatural soap called Springhill, and the evergreen Upstairs Downstairs (the original version, that is).

Netflix has added new seasons of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, American Horror Story, and White Collar. That Lady Gaga and the Muppets holiday special that aired on Thanksgiving is also there, which is cool since I avoided it the night of its airing because 1) football was on and 2) Lady Gaga.

In the, "Hey, didn't you just tank in theaters?" department is the biopic Lovelace, and in the "Got to be terrible, but I like looking at the boxcover" department is something called Paranormal Whacktivity.

Hulu hasn't done a whole lot apart from adding a Christmas spotlight without giving me any apparent way to see what's in the batch of shows, nor to select shows individually from that spotlight.

Warner Instant, which I hope will give me a nice new batch of titles after I post this, possibly including Holiday Affair, one of my favorite Christmas films, DID add some interesting new ones this week, including Bette Davis in Dead Ringers, Fred Astaire in The Belle of New York, John Gilbert in The Show, and Regis Toomey in the provocatively named pre-Code Other Men's Women.

There are also a few new Glenn Ford pics (Cimarron, Blackboard Jungle), several crime/thrillers (The Window,. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Prince of the City), and the seemingly random inclusion of one of the Hardy Family movies (Judge Hardy and Son).

Thursday, December 12, 2013

New review up at ClassicFlix

I've been taking a breather from the blog, and I neglected to link to this when it was new, but the beauty of the Internet is it's there forever. You know, just like CompuServe.

So out my latest review

Happiness Ahead (Warner Archive)
Happiness Ahead: Hey... It's Dick Powell! 
12/05/2013 | by Rick Brooks
What better harbinger of happiness ahead is there than a beaming Dick Powell singing the title song directly to you, the viewer, while superimposed over a lovely backdrop? There can be none better, I say, and Happiness Ahead (1934) indeed lives up to its title and to that striking beginning. Powell sings for several minutes over the credits, and it certainly is a dynamic way to open a film.

It's also a quick reminder to the modern viewer that this isn't the hard-boiled Dick Powell of Cry Danger (1951) and Murder My Sweet (1944), but rather the apple-cheeked earnest crooner of the prewar era. Oh, Powell's character, Bob Lane (even his name sounds earnest) gets a little bitter as this romantic comedy goes on, but only in that innocent kind of "Aw, shucks, I thought you were a true blue gal," kind of way. You know he's gonna sing another day and that he'll be smiling before opposed to that jaded fellow who suffers permanent disillusion after the war.

(Head on over there to read the rest...)