Where’s Charley?, And More Of Your Questions, Answered

Movie Questions AnsweredQuestion: What are the chances we’ll ever see Susan Hayward in I Can Get it for You Wholesale?

Answer: You can now get it for yourself at retail, because Fox is releasing it as part of their archives collection. The 1951 garment district saga showcases Ms. Hayward as a put-upon fashion model who uses her craftiness to make a name for herself as a fashion designer. Dan Dailey, George Sanders and Sam Jaffe also star in this drama that was shot on location.

Question:  I remember watching a movie, I think it was in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s, about a family of kids whose only remaining parent died and they kept the fact hidden so they wouldn’t be separated and put into foster homes. This was set maybe in the Appalachians. The characters all had funny names. I used to remember them all but now the only one I remember was a man (I think it was the bad guy) whose name was Kaiser Pease. If this movie rings a bell with anyone, I’d like to know the title and also if you have this movie for sale.

Answer: The film is 1974’s Where the Lilies Bloom.  It was from some of the same folks who produced Sounder (the Mattel toy company). You are correct that there is a character named “Kiser Pease,” and he’s played by the great character actor Harry Dean Stanton. You pretty much have the plot right. Unfortunately, it has yet to be put on DVD.

Question:  I’m looking for the comedy The Crystal Ball, starring Ray Milland and Paulette Goddard. A great movie—I laughed all the way through.

Answer: This1943 Paramount film is controlled by Universal, which has been making some of their classics available to us through Turner Classic Movies (TCM). We haven’t heard of this coming out on DVD, but we would certainly welcome it, along with The Uninvited, another Milland Paramount film which remains one of our most requested titles. The Crystal Ball stars Milland as an attorney dating wealthy Manhattan widow Virginia Field who takes a liking to poor Texas gal Goddard, who poses as a fortune teller to get her man.  The film is peppered with great co-starring parts for William Bendix, Gladys George (as “Madame Zenobia”) and Cecil Kellaway; Elliott Nugent (1949’s The Great Gatsby) directs.

Question: I’ve been waiting forever for The Dark at the Top of the Stairs to come out on DVD.  Such a good movie….

Answer: This 1960 adaptation of William Inge’s play is a dramatic powerhouse, with Robert Preston scoring as an unemployed salesman in 1920s Oklahoma, trying to come to terms with financial difficulties, his troubled marriage to Dorothy McGuire, and daughter Shirley Knight’s involvement with Jewish military cadet Lee Kinsolving.  Angela Lansbury, Eve Arden and Frank Overton also star under Delbert Mann’s direction. Warner owns the controversial film, an ideal candidate, one would think, for their Archives collection.

Question:  What was the first martial arts scene in American cinema? The earliest scene I can find is a judo demonstration in Across the Pacific (1942), starring Humphrey Bogart.

Answer: That’s a great question. We can trace the use of martial arts in American films to the Mr. Moto films starring Peter Lorre. The wily Japanese detective created by J.P. Marquand was an expert at judo, as displayed in Think Fast, Mr. Moto (1937) and the other films in the franchise. As you mentioned, Across the Pacific, in which director John Huston reunited with Maltese Falcon stars Bogey, Mary Astor and Sydney Greenstreet, has martial arts sequences. No less fascinating is 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate, with Henry Silva engaging Frank Sinatra in martial arts combat.

Question: While I just recently saw Richard Dreyfuss in Let It Ride on TV, I’ve been looking for it for several years on VHS or DVD, and can’t find it. It’s a great little film, with a varied cast who do it well. What’s up? Where can I find it?

Answer: Sorry. You can’t. The terrifically underrated 1989 Dreyfuss horse racing movie, formerly available on VHS, has been out-of-print from Paramount for a few years now. We have received no word of its DVD reissue, even from Olive Films, which has been bringing the Paramount library to the format at a good clip.  When the movie does arrive on DVD, it’s likely that its fans—myself included—will “have a good day.”

Question:  I’ve got frustration with Where’s Charley?  (1952) with Ray Bolger.  I’ve heard the hold-up is because Frank Loesser’s widow never liked the filmed version of the Broadway musical.  It’s a shame when such subjective viewpoints, even if shared by those who have ownership rights, deprive a viewing public of outstanding and classic performances, such as to see the fab Ray dance and hear the great song Once in Love with Amy once more!  Now, if Movie Irv can pitch it…I, for one, would love to catch THAT DVD release for the first time ever…Thanks.

Answer:  We wish we could do something about it! You’re right about Loesser’s opera singer widow. Jo Sullivan, not being a fan of the film version of the show, which was based on the 1890s farce Charley’s Aunt. So since she controls the rights to the music, it’s been out of circulation for decades. In addition, the Warner Brothers release is in need of some serious restoration. It’s a shame, because by all accounts (we’ve never seen it) Ray Bolger—aka  “Scarecrow” from The Wizard of Oz—turns in a tour-de-force performance as the Victorian Era Oxford University student who impersonates his aunt so he can chaperone his girlfriend and her friend around, and farcical moments of mistaken identity with music ensue.  Adapted from a hit Broadway show featuring a bright Loesser-George Abbott score, the film is much desired by musical comedy and Bolger fans, but, despite recent rumors, is not slated to be issued on DVD in the near future.

Question: My friend keeps telling me about a movie in which a guy in his bathing suit hops from pool to pool in a neighborhood, talking to the folks who own the pools as he travels from one home to another. I never heard of such a movie and wonder if one exists?

Answer: Your friend must be talking about The Swimmer (1968), in which Burt Lancaster plays a discontented Connecticut suburbanite who encounters his neighbors—and relives moments from his life—as he paddles from swimming pool to swimming pool. Based on a story by John Cheever, the film was directed by Frank Perry (Mommie Dearest), who was actually fired before it was finished and replaced by an uncredited Sydney Pollack. The powerful drama won critics over but fizzled at the box-office. It also featured Janice Rule, Marge Champion , Kim Hunter and Joan Rivers, and the first score by the recently departed Marvin Hamlisch.