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  • mistermuse 12:06 am on November 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , gangster films, , , , Little Caesar, movie history, The Public Enemy, The Roaring Twenties, Yankee Doodle Dandy   


    “The gangster film has always been one of the staples of the American cinema. Though the record shows that there were several motion pictures with a gangster theme as far back as the silent era, the genre did not really begin to flourish as a popular form until the thirties. Depression-era audiences responded strongly to all the action, violence and romance that these films contained, and were more than willing to get caught up in the colorful on-screen exploits of Edward G. Robinson,, James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. In a sense, the movie gangster, with the rebellious breaking of society’s rules and regulations, and his aggressive drive to “get somewhere” regardless of consequences, became something of a hero to filmgoers of the period.”
    “Robinson, Cagney and Bogart are, even today, the three actors most associated with films of this type, which isn’t surprising, since all three achieved their initial fame in a Warner Brothers [the king-of-the-hill gangster film studio] crime drama.”

    –Robert Bookbinder, author of CLASSIC GANGSTER FILMS

    • * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    There were a lot of “bad actors” in Hollywood in those days. Robinson, Cagney and Bogart weren’t the only famous names to have become famous names playing bad guys in 1930s gangster films, but most (e.g. Peter Lorre) remained typecast as character actors. We will take a look at the “bad character actors” in our next post; this post will look to the stars.

    Quoting further from Robert Bookbinder’s excellent book CLASSIC GANGSTER FILMS, “Little Caesar [1931] was the first of the great gangster films. It made a star of Edward G. Robinson, who had been working in films since 1923, and it laid the groundwork for all the fine Warner Brothers gangster movies that followed.” Here’s a clip from the film:

    How tough was Edward G. Robinson? Tough enough to get Doris Day and Jack Carson out of a pickle:

    Just as Little Caesar made a star of Robinson, Warner Brothers’ second gangster film (later the same year), The Public Enemy, made a star of James Cagney. In this scene, after Cagney’s friend is shot to death by a gang, he vows revenge and arms himself with two 38s:

    By 1942, Cagney had made a clean break from the “gangs” — here he is in scenes from his Oscar-winning performance as showman George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy:

    As for Humphrey Bogart, he was the last of the three to attain stardom after years of supporting roles in gangster films. In The Roaring Twenties (1939), he is third-billed (Cagney stars):

    All three, as we know, went on to bigger (if not badder) things in such films as Double Indemnity (Robinson), Mister Roberts (Cagney), and, of course, Casablanca (Bogart), among many other memorable performances. Who says crime doesn’t pay?


    • calmkate 5:30 am on November 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      violence and crime … not a good mix! But thanks for the trip down memory lane 😎
      John Wayne is the same in every movie … these three could act 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

    • Rivergirl 7:55 am on November 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      Growing up I had a life size Bogie poster on my bedroom door. My Godfather grew up and was childhood friends with Jimmy Cagney. Wish he had lived long enough to tell me some stories…
      And did you know tough Edward G was actually an art connoisseur? He amassed an amazing collection in his lifetime recognizing talent before anyone else.

      Liked by 3 people

      • mistermuse 9:59 am on November 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        Thank you for that fascinating comment, Rg. I’m guessing your Bogie poster was from a scene in one of his most famous films, like CASABLANCA, MALTESE FALCON, or AFRICAN QUEEN.

        I too would’ve loved to hear your Godfather tell some Cagney stories. As for Edward G., I’ve read his extremely interesting autobiography titled ALL MY YESTERDAYS, so I did know about his art collection. Despite this tough guy image, he was actually “a man of wit, of dignity, and of great sensitivity” (so described by movie producer Hal Wallis, who knew Robinson well).

        Liked by 2 people

        • Rivergirl 10:54 am on November 1, 2019 Permalink

          Not sure what movie the poster was from. Trench coat, slouched hat, cigarette. Could have been any of them.
          My godfather grew up in a tough section of NYC, I bet the stories were colorful.
          And yes Edward G was the antithesis of his rough and tumble characters. Odd, that.

          Liked by 1 person

    • masercot 10:32 am on November 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      With Bogart as with Lorre, you always felt a little menace from them, even when they were playing benign roles…

      Liked by 3 people

      • mistermuse 3:08 pm on November 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        Always with Bogart, ALMOST always with Lorre — my (tongue-in-cheek) exception is the first clip in my new post today.

        Liked by 1 person

    • literaryeyes 8:31 pm on November 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      I loved Peter Lorre. Even when he was at his baddest I couldn’t help chuckling. Great actors who didn’t mind chewing up the scenery. The molls were good too, Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, etc.

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 9:16 pm on November 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        Lorre has long been a favorite of mine too, Mary. You may not know that he was a “song and dance man” in one of his last films — check out the SWEET SIBERIA clip in my new post today!

        Liked by 1 person

    • davidbruceblog 9:34 pm on November 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      Reblogged this on davidbruceblog #2.

      Liked by 5 people

    • Silver Screenings 11:53 pm on November 16, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      James Cagney as gangster can be chilling, especially in “White Heat”, which is one of my fave Cagney performances.

      Yup, I’d say these three are the trifecta of bad guys. Talented actors, all.

      Didn’t Edward G. Robinson once say (and I’m paraphrasing): “Some actors have talent, some have good looks, and I have menace.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 1:43 am on November 17, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        I’m not sure about the Robinson quote — he may have said it, but I don’t remember it. He did indeed have menace, but not in all of his films – including one of my favs, DOUBLE INDEMNITY. He could also play menace for laughs, such as in the very funny LARCENY, INC.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Silver Screenings 10:31 am on November 17, 2019 Permalink

          I love his performance in Larceny, Inc. And his meek clerk in The Whole Town’s Talking, where he plays dual roles.

          Liked by 1 person

        • mistermuse 1:44 pm on November 17, 2019 Permalink

          Thanks for mentioning The Whole Town’s Talking – it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it.
          Have you read Robinson’s autobiography, ALL MY YESTERDAYS? I’m sure you would enjoy it.


  • mistermuse 12:02 am on May 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , classic films, friendship, , , , movie history, , Peter Bogdanovich, , race hate, the good old days, the human spirit,   


    “My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four….unless there are three other people.” –Orson Welles (in his obese later years)

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    Today being the birthday (5/6/1915) of the great director/actor Orson Welles, I’m going to risk repeating myself by repeating myself….with a few selections (including the following clip) from a past post acclaiming Welles and his role in the classic film THE THIRD MAN:

    To those who think the likes of this 1949 film has appeal only for seniors (like me), I’d say such films are called classic because they’re ageless, not made to capitalize on what’s ‘in’ at the moment. To demonstrate, here is a non-senior citizen explaining why she loves it:

    Of Welles, the man grown from “boy genius,” much has been written, but I won’t go into the details of his life/legend here — they can be readily culled by clicking this link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orson_Welles (or less readily culled from recommended books like ORSON WELLES, a 562 page biography by Barbara Leaming). Instead, I will call on some of the wisdom he left behind….and I quote:

    Even if the good old days never existed, the fact that we can conceive such a world is, in fact, a confirmation of the human spirit.

    Living in the lap of luxury isn’t bad except that you never know when luxury is going to stand up.

    I don’t pray because I don’t want to bore God.

    Race hate isn’t human nature; race hate is the abandonment of human nature.

    Don’t give them what they think they want. Give them what they never thought was possible.

    We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.

    When people accept breaking the law as normal, something happens to the whole society.

    Well(es) said, I’d say.




    • Red Metal 12:09 am on May 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      He was one talented filmmaker, that’s for sure, and I really do like his pearls of wisdom. It’s a shame more directors don’t use that ethos in their work. Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil, and The Lady from Shanghai are all personal favorites of mine, and even if they had messages, they were still ultimately stories first, which is a large reason they’re able to stand the test of time. I also have a copy of The Magnificent Ambersons and F for Fake lying around; I want to give them a spin at some point.

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 9:02 am on May 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        To “stand the test of time” is indeed the measure of a classic film (or any creative work, for that matter), and it goes almost without saying that a film doesn’t have to be ‘serious’ to be classic (think Charlie Chaplin, for example).

        Liked by 2 people

        • Red Metal 1:35 pm on May 7, 2019 Permalink

          Yeah, the problem with a lot of modern filmmakers is that they’re more interested in being timely than timeless. The other problem is that they make films in a way that you’re only ever allowed to enjoy them on their terms, depriving them of any kind of applicability. Welles was always a storyteller first – even when he was tackling heavy subjects such as racism as he did in Touch of Evil. I make it a point that I always favor the storyteller over the preacher.

          Also, the fact that a film doesn’t need to be serious to be good is something more critics need to understand. As it stands, what they consider to be good is quite limited.

          Liked by 3 people

        • mistermuse 4:04 pm on May 7, 2019 Permalink

          I couldn’t agree more, R M. Thanks for commenting again.

          Liked by 1 person

    • obbverse 3:36 am on May 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      ‘I don’t pray because I don’t want to bore God.’ Awesome, Orson. And thanks etc. I like and enjoy wordplay so I’m following along.

      Liked by 4 people

      • mistermuse 9:09 am on May 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        That’s one of my favorite quotes as well. As an evolved deist, I stopped boring God years ago — at least, when it comes to praying.


    • mlrover 8:01 am on May 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      “When people accept breaking the law as normal, something happens to the whole society.” MLKing said something similar that I also like about injustice. Haven’t had morning coffee or I would look it up.

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 9:14 am on May 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        When I came upon that quote, the rise and reign of Donald Trump immediately came to mind. Something is indeed happening to the whole society, and the longer his reign continues, the more normal it becomes.

        Liked by 1 person

    • rivergirl1211 8:03 am on May 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      A visionary film maker to be sure. I’ve seen many, but am always pleased to discover a new ( to me ) one.

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 9:24 am on May 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        “A visionary film maker” indeed (and a towering presence as an actor, as well). What a pity that so many of his films were taken out of this hands and/or re-edited out of his vision.

        Liked by 1 person

    • scifihammy 11:47 am on May 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      I’ve always admired Orson Welles, so enjoyed your post very much 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 12:48 pm on May 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        I too have long admired Welles, despite admitting that his work isn’t for all tastes….though the same could be said of how the “masses” have viewed many a ‘misunderstood genius’ and innovator.

        Liked by 1 person

    • arekhill1 1:12 pm on May 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      The War of the Worlds panic was related to me by both my parents, although both denied being personally panicked. I’ve forced myself to sit through Citizen Kane twice, without it improving me measurably. Kind of wish the man had chosen to bore God instead of me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 1:36 pm on May 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        I don’t count CITIZEN KANE among my favorite Orson Welles films, although it did make quite an impression on me when I first saw it. When I watched it again years later, I came to the conclusion that it doesn’t bear repeated viewings for those who aren’t “auteurs” (unlike, say, films such as CASABLANCA or THE THIRD MAN) and I haven’t watched it again again.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Rosaliene Bacchus 2:42 pm on May 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      MisterMuse, you’ve convinced me that I need to see The Third Man 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Elizabeth 8:16 pm on May 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      I saw The Third Man a few months ago after seeing it recommended on another blog. I loved it and could certainly watch it again.

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 10:56 pm on May 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm for The Third Man, Elizabeth. I’ve watched it at least a half dozen times over the years, though I do allow a few years to pass between viewings because of the old saying that “familiarity breeds contempt” (though I doubt that would be the case with this film or several others I’ve watched many times).

        Liked by 1 person

    • Eliza 1:29 pm on May 7, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      I love those quotes! Especially the I don’t pray because I don’t want to bore god, and friendship creates an illusion.
      Love, light and glitter…

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 5:20 pm on May 7, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        I love those two quotes too, Eliza, as well as the last one because it’s so relevant to the reign of Trump and his cronies today and the resulting “new normal” surrounding him.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Eliza 12:41 pm on May 8, 2019 Permalink

          ha ha. What’s the ‘new normal’ with him as president?

          Liked by 1 person

        • mistermuse 6:09 pm on May 8, 2019 Permalink

          Perhaps I should have said “the new abnormal,” Eliza. The very fact that you asked the question shows that abnormal has become so normal with Trump that it seems normal. But you’re right in implying that, after two-plus years as “acting” President, it’s no longer new.

          Liked by 1 person

    • blindzanygirl 3:11 am on May 8, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      I just love those quotes. And I also love the film. Many thanks to you

      Liked by 1 person

    • Chris Karas 6:42 pm on May 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      Great quotes. I chuckled at the lap of luxury bit. Definitely a timeless individual.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 6:38 pm on May 10, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      In his obese later years, Welles probably didn’t have much lap left — either physically, or of luxury. So he no doubt knew whereof he spoke.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Silver Screenings 4:57 pm on May 26, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      I love listening to Peter Bogdanovich talk about film, especially Orson Welles films. Thanks for sharing this clip. I hadn’t seen it before. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Don Ostertag 7:53 pm on June 20, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      Since I first saw THE THIRD MAN I had it in my top 5 favorite movies. As I grew older I realized it is my number one favorite. I watch it about every 6 months. So much fine acting, direction, script, cinematography, music. And once you are over-thralled by just how fine it is, the last scene comes on and compounds the feeling that it is truly a work of art.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 1:07 am on June 21, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        I absolutely agree. Everything comes together so perfectly in this film that I don’t think it could improved on. How many movies can you say that about?

        Liked by 1 person

    • pendantry 1:21 pm on March 27, 2021 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the recommendation! I’ve just ordered a copy of The Third Man. Not sure whether I’ve ever seen it before — I suspect that I probably have, but if so it’ll have been so long ago I’ll have forgotten the plot 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 3:16 pm on March 27, 2021 Permalink | Reply

        You’re quite welcome. If you’ve seen it before, this trailer should refresh your memory. If you haven’t seen it, this trailer may whet your appetite (though it can’t begin to do it justice):

        Liked by 1 person

        • pendantry 4:22 pm on March 27, 2021 Permalink

          None of that rings any bells with me. Maybe I actually have never seen it before. I’m looking forward to watching it! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  • mistermuse 4:48 pm on December 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Lights of New York, movie history, Noble Sissle, talking pictures, The Jazz Singer   


    Even the buffiest of old movie buffs are likely to think of Al Jolson’s THE JAZZ SINGER (1927) as the first sound film, notwithstanding the fact that it is mostly silent (part-talkie with bits of spoken dialogue in addition to musical segments). The first feature-length, all-talking picture was 1928’s LIGHTS OF NEW YORK, a crime drama which cost $28,000 to produce, and grossed over $1,000,000. You couldn’t get most of today’s entertainment prima dons and donnas to turn out the lights for $28,000.

    But neither of those films can hold claim to being the first sound movie. Experimentation with sound film had begun the previous decade, and in 1919 Lee de Forest filed the first patent on his sound-on-film process, calling it the De Forest Phonofilm. After several years of development, private and press demonstrations, de Forest publicly premiered 18 Phonofilm short films on April 15, 1923 at the independent Rivoli Theater in NYC (theater chains were controlled by Hollywood studios, none of which expressed an interest in his invention).

    Two of the 18 films featured the great vaudeville team of Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake (“The Dixie Duo”), who composed the music for SHUFFLE ALONG (the first Broadway hit musical written by African Americans), which included such songs as “I’m Just Wild About Harry” and “Love Will Find A Way.” Here is one of those two historic films:

    Noble Sissle died on this December day in 1975 at the age of 86. Eubie Blake found a way to live to age 96. Together, they live on in film and song.

    • Michaeline Montezinos 7:22 pm on December 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      This story about the first actual talkie film by Eubie Blake and Noble Sisle is very interesting, mistermuse. The persistence of these film makers inspire me. Good post amd I am glad you did the research that made it quite enjoyable to read.


    • mistermuse 8:19 pm on December 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      When it comes to the movies and music of that era, I’m already pretty well versed, Michaeline. For a post such as this, it’s just a matter of looking up some of the details, which I’m happy to do both for my enjoyment and the enjoyment of readers like you.


    • Don Frankel 11:23 am on December 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Muse this is why you’re here. You keep these things alive.


    • mistermuse 6:15 pm on December 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      IT’S ALIVE!!! (“Love Will Find A Way.”)


  • mistermuse 9:56 am on July 29, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , biographies, , , movie history, Westerns   


    Candice Bergen’s book, KNOCK WOOD (reviewed in my last post), was one of too many biographies/autobiographies I’ve been reading lately. I read them because I’m into trying to get a handle on the “real” human being beneath the public persona of past legendary creative/performing artists I’ve “known.”

    Take JOHN FORD, director of such classic Westerns as Stagecoach, Fort Apache, My Darling Clementine, Rio Grande and The Searchers. Did I really need to find out (in a book titled COMPANY OF HEROES) that he was a real horse’s ass in the way he treated others — not just the actors and subordinates he “treated like children” and often directed like a sadistic drill sergeant, but in his personal life? Well, some might say that Hollywood filmmaking was a cutthroat industry and Westerns are violent by their very nature, so it goes with the territory.

    But Ford wasn’t always thoughtless, nor did he direct only shoot ’em ups. His 50 year directorial career included such (relatively) non-violent gems as Judge Priest (Will Rogers’ finest film), The Grapes Of Wrath, Young Mr. Lincoln, How Green Was My Valley, The Quiet Man (in which fists flew, but not bullets) and Mister Roberts. Go figure. A complex fellow, Mister Ford. 

    And then there’s JOHN HUSTON, who made only a few Westerns, but, like Ford, was an egoist, womanizer and “larger-than-life” figure. In his book JOHN HUSTON: COURAGE AND ART, author Jeffrey Meyers paints a picture of a man who was an “extraordinary director, writer, actor, and bon vivant who made such iconic films as The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre [in which his father, Walter Huston, co-starred], The Asphalt Jungle and The African Queen.” He also directed Anjelica Huston, his daughter by the fourth of his five wives.

    John Ford. John Huston. Orson Welles. Billy Wilder. Vincente Minnelli. Woody Allen. And more. Too many biographies/autobiographies? I plead guilty. But I can’t stop. They’re addictive.


    • arekhill1 12:43 pm on July 29, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Just as the winners write history, Sr. Muse, survivors write biographies. Not that being a horse’s ass is a tough benchmark to achieve, but perhaps the guy you think is being a jerk thinks he’s just following his habit of not suffering fools gladly, which is a flaw of my own, I’m sorry to say.


    • mistermuse 4:17 pm on July 29, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Actually, the author of COMPANY OF HEROES, Harry “Dobe” Carey Jr. (a member of Ford’s stock company of actors in nine Ford Westerns), mostly praises Ford, calling him both his “nemesis and hero. There were times when I was not an admirer – but when the day’s work was done – I loved him.” Others were less forgiving of Ford’s bullying and sometimes sadistic behavior.

      As for not suffering fools gladly, I wouldn’t call it so much a flaw, as an exercise in futility – or should I say, FOOLTILITY (if that word catches on, you heard it here first).


    • Michaeline Montezinos 9:40 am on August 1, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Thankx for the info on the directors. No matter how eccentric they were, I have seen all of their films and enjoyed them all. We must have similar taste, mistermuse.


    • mistermuse 1:06 pm on August 1, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I remember remarking some time ago (regarding Frank Sinatra) that regardless of what one thinks of his personal life, he was a great singer. I think the same thing goes for directors and actors – if they’re gifted at what they do, their personal shortcomings shouldn’t detract from our judgment of their talent (which raises the question: if Adolph Hitler hadn’t failed as an artist and had become a great painter, would he have become “The Great Dictator” (the title of Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 Hitler-satire).


    • Don Frankel 6:20 am on August 4, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Be a little careful with Biographies. They are usually well researched but the Author has definitely come to some kind of an opinion. They’re not very objective pro or con.

      I don’t know much about John Ford but the same actors appear in movie after movie of his so he had to have been more than just a meanie.


    • mistermuse 7:57 am on August 4, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      You’re right about the same actors appearing in Ford movie after Ford movie (the sub-title of the book I mention in my post & 7/29 comment, COMPANY OF HEROES, is “My Life as an Actor in the John Ford Stock Company”). These “same actors” included John Wayne, Ward Bond, Maureen O’Hara and, of course, the book’s author, Harry Carey Jr.

      I think you’d love this book, Don – in fact, I’d be pleased to mail it to you as a “get well” gift (assuming you ARE geting well after your hip operation!) – just email me your address and the book is yours.


    • Don Frankel 8:15 am on August 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      You sure about that Muse?
      Okay it’s
      Don Frankel
      3725 Henry Hudson Pkwy.
      Apt. 6C
      Riverdale NY 10463


    • mistermuse 12:29 pm on August 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Don, the check – I mean, the book – is in the mail (expected delivery date 8/11). It’s paperback, so it’s not like it’s an expensive gift. Enjoy!


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