Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Signal Watch Reads: Casino Royale (1953) - audiobook

One Christmas I recall buying my dad a post-Ian Fleming Bond novel, something I thought was this amazing find.  "Don't worry, Dad!  Yeah, that Fleming guy is dead, but Bond lives on!".  A year later I asked him about the book and he admitted he'd never bothered to read it because "it wasn't Ian Fleming."  While I felt like maybe I'd wasted a present on The Admiral, I do recall that the book's description seemed a lot edgier than what was in the movies and developed the notion that we don't need to follow a series after the originator has died.

It's funny, because I have no idea if The Admiral ever read those original Bond novels.  He would have been in the right age range when they were coming out and I still remember he and The KareBear applauding me when he found me and my brother watching Goldfinger.

In college, JAL did inform me how much he enjoyed the novels, but I wasn't much of a "reader".  Well, I was, but mostly non-fiction and comics.  And, since then, I think Picky Girl has been the biggest proponent of the Bond novels around these parts.

I'm slogging through the final Parker novels, which have lost a lot of the verve I enjoyed from the beginning of the series, and I'd been thinking of getting into the Bond novels as my next series, so I gave Casino Royale (1953) a whirl to see how it fit my tastes.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Noir Watch: The Glass Key (1942)

For reasons I don't quite understand, The Glass Key (1942) isn't discussed all that much and doesn't get the same hagiography as other pictures.  Nor has it been as readily available as other crime/ noir movies on home video, although I do note its available in a boxed set and a kind-of-pricey stand alone DVD.  That second-class-movie-citizen status is a shame, because the film is fantastic; a winding, complicated detective story taken on not by a private eye, but the right-hand man of a political boss.  Throw in some of my favorite talent (Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, William Bendix), and you've got a good picture going.

Based on the Dashiell Hammett novel of the same name, The Glass Key feels distinctly like a Hammett novel, never over-simplified, with all of the characters existing in a moral gray area, all possible suspects when it comes to a murder.  Whether its The Thin Man or The Maltese Falcon, everyone has a motivation, and no one does.  Sorting out whodunnit has terrific implications, but everyone might also be happy to see it just go away.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Santor Joins in the Holidays with a bit of Decorating!

Gloria Grahame's Birthday

Today marks the 92nd birthday of actress Gloria Grahame.

We're big fans of the work of Ms. Grahame here at The Signal Watch, and seeing her listed in the credits for a movie will always get us to check it out.  We generally prefer her noir work, where she plays a wide range of roles, but always with a certain flair.  We particularly recommend her work in The Big Heat, Human Desire and In a Lonely Place.

But, she's also Ado Annie in Oklahoma! and she's Violet in It's a Wonderful Life.

Her personal life was like an unscripted noir that ignored the Hayes Code, but I'll let you look into that yourself.  What I will say is that she died too young, and I wish she'd had a second go with her career.  She's so darn good, it's hard to believe she wouldn't have ended up doing more on TV or in movies.

Here's to one of the good ones.  Do yourself a favor and take time out for a Gloria Grahame picture this month.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Turkey Day 26

from our house to yours...

Happy Thanksgiving, everybuddy

Marvel Floats in the Thanksgiving Day Parade from Back in the 1980's

From 1987

From 1989

The kids will never understand that this felt like gigantic exposure for these characters at the time.

Happy Belated Birthday to Noel Neill, Our Lois Lane!

Technically, Jamie is Our Lois Lane, and I hate to play favorites when it comes to the great talent that has come to the role in radio, movies and television.  But I'd be lying if I didn't admit to tremendous affection for actress Noel Neill in her role as Lois Lane in The Adventures of Superman, and her affiliation with Superman as a character in other ways.

November 25th marked Neill's 95th, and we want to wish her a very happy belated birthday.

Ms. Neill was not in the first season of The Adventures of Superman when the role was played by actress Phyllis Coates.  She arrived in Season 2, and brought her own spark to the part.

She had practice!  Neill also played Lois in the 1948 Superman serials starring Kirk Alyn as The Man of Steel.

How's your Thanksgiving Prep going?

Jingle Watch: Jingle All the Way (1996)

Well, you can tell Doug is in town, because somehow we found ourselves watching the 1996 Christmas catastrophe Jingle All The Way starring Arnie and Sinbad.

This is the movie most famous for ending the cinematic career of stand-up comedian Sinbad (your mileage will vary on Sinbad.  Doug = not a fan) and the debut of Jake Lloyd in a part that in no way should have inspired confidence that he could carry a Star Wars movie.

It's an odd movie, and I have my theories about it.  It's set as this family friendly comedy, but it's not really fun for kids to see "Dad" getting tortured for an hour, I'd think.  A movie in '96 was a little early for what we'd get with Bad Santa (a movie I finally watched a couple years ago and firmly recommend) or other more adult-oriented holiday comedies.

And, Arnie is a businessman first, actor second.  If he was going to be in a movie, he was going to sell as many tickets as possible.  In fact, I have a firm memory of Arnie talking about the movie upon its release.  I was in film school at the time and was supposed to be making ART, but I also was a dedicated Arnie fan and saw almost all of his movies in the theater.  And here he was pitching the movie not as a story or entertainment, but as a holiday product everyone could enjoy (bring Grandma!).  It informed a lot of how I think of the movie business today, Arnie's relationship to said business, and profitability.