Monday, November 07, 2005

Charlie Chan at the Race Track!*
That has to be one of the most evocative titles in the Chan Canon, what with the glamour, excitement and action of real horse-racing of the Melbourne Cup thrown it!
And for those times you just can't get enough of such things, you might check out the following:
A DAY AT THE RACES . . . What more do I need to say but The Marx Brothers! They try to come to the aid of love birds Allan Jones (who buys a horse he can't afford) and Maureen O'Sullivan (who needs the money Jones spent on the horse to save her business). This is a great entry of the Marx's movies but the best part for me is watching veterinarian Groucho trying to pass as an internist, especially in the scenes with his usually excellent foil, Margaret Dumont.
THE EX-MRS. BRADFORD . . . What do you call a Thin Man movie with William Powell when it isn't a Thin Man movie? There were actually several detective films that Powell did other than the Thin Man series and this is one of them. He was his usual dapper, suave self while finding out how a jockey died in the middle of a race track. And if you can do that, you're dang good!!
A weak link--for me, at least--is Jean Arthur. She and Powell play a couple who divorced because she kept trying to involve him in research for the mystery stories wrote. Her character is so irritating that you can understand why they were divorced. If you can get past the premise that they should have STAYED that way, you can enjoy watching the rest of the movie!
THE GARDEN MURDER CASE . . . This is a Philo Vance movie with Edmund Lowe as S.S. Van Dine's hero. This is only a nominal entry for the horsey set since it starts at a race track and quickly goes to Edgar Hammle's deluxe New York apartment. Gene Lockhart does an excellent job as Hammle, giving everybody around him good reason to do him in. Edmund Lowe does a good job as Vance in an great movie but you may end up with the feeling that they gave him the role because William Powell either wouldn't or couldn't take one more film as Philo.
SARATOGA . . . This is a good behind-the-scenes movie about horse races but has an unfortunate footnote to Hollywood history. Jean Harlow died when the movie was about 90% finished at the tragically young age of 26. She has never really given credit for being such a good comediene plus Harlow was surrounded by the likes of Clark Gable, Lionel Barrymore, Walter Pidgeon, etc., in this movie. It's said that many people watch this movie just to see if they can pick out which scenes have Jean Harlow and which ones have her double, Mary Dees.
Believe me, you don't pay somebody as much as they paid Jean Harlow and then NOT show her face so it's easy to tell which ones were done after her death.
SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN . . . This is William Powell at his best as Nick Charles with Myrna Loy as Nora Charles. The Charles inadvertently become involved in the murder of a jockey when they go to the race track.
Hmmm . . . sounds kind of familiar doesn't it?!
The Thin Man series are simply a must have in any film buff's collection!
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. . . or else!
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*Our Monday Night Chat Room Movie at www.charliechan.info at 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM (EST) and we start our tapes/DVDs at 8:30.

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