House of Strangers (1949)

Manhattan's Lower East Side of the 1930s is the setting for a biblical Jacob and Joseph dynamic in House of Strangers (1949). The plot follows an envious gaggle of  brothers - all of whom work at the family bank - whose tempers flare whenever their father  (Edward G. Robinson) mistreats them and favors only one son - Max.

Max Monetti (Richard Conte), a first generation Italian-American, is torn between the dictates of Old World tradition - marriage and working in the family business - and the scintillating adventures of the New World - represented by a sultry client named Irene Bennett (Susan Hayward).

The brothers have murder on the brain.
The Bowery’s crowded streets and the overstuffed trappings of a nouveau-riche family mansion inhibit Max. In his first scene with Irene, Max paces about in his office almost like a caged animal. He’s looking for escape. Later, Max practically challenges Irene to provide excitement, in spite of (or perhaps because of) his preexisting engagement to the proper woman from the proper family (played by a fetching Debra Paget).
Max and Irene share a moment

With an early 20th century New York setting, familial violence and alternate titles  such as Bitter Fate (Italy),  Hatred Between Brothers (Spain), Blood of My Blood ( Brazil) and House of Hate (Sweden), the film has been compared favorably with the Oscar-winning Godfather (1972) movies. However, House was reproached by the Breen office for its unfavorable portrayal of Italian-Americans. Bosley Crowthers of The New York Times sneers that the film showcases,  "[as] nasty a nest of vipers as ever you're likely to see outside of a gangster picture or maybe a jungle film." The film gets poor press even from it’s director, Joseph Mankiewicz, who declares it simply a “bad picture.”

Despite the negative reviews, yours truly recommends this film as a love story, or a series of love stories, emanating from Max. Should he follow his father- fiercely clinging to tradition, ruling with an iron fist, dabbling into illegal business practices - or should he embrace a less hostile way of life in the arms of his new found love interest? It’s probably a coincidence that the name Irene is derived from the Greek word for peace. Still the lady  brings  much-needed tranquility into the life of an emotionally tortured son.

Further Reading

Doris Day Gets Mad

No one gets angry quite like Doris Day. Here's an excerpt from the 1993 documentary "Sentimental Journey" on just that subject.

Gene Kelly and Mitzi Gaynor Sizzle in a Diner

Another great dancer in classic movies, Mitzi Gaynor, here partners with Gene Kelly in Les Girls (1957). What the movie, as a whole, lacks in zip and sparkle is regained in musical numbers like this one. Here Miss Gaynor portrays an harassed waitress at a diner and Mr. Kelly is the boorish customer. Of course, they end up enamored with each other.

Exit question: If she's trying to get rid of the gang, why would she shake her tail feathers in front of them? That might induce them to stay, one would think.

Top 10 Unnecessary Remakes

MSN Movies has a list of Top 10 Unnecessary Remakes (because the oldies are just fine, thank you). Ah yes. This is a game that classic movies fans will always enjoy - sniffing at the newer guys because we can. To be frank, I had not heard of a good deal of these remakes, so I couldn't agree or disagree with the reasoning they give for dismissing some of them.

Yet, they hit the nail on the head about the remake of Sabrina (1954) - it lacks charm. But I give it some slack because it does try. They are fine actors, but Harrison Ford is simply not Humphrey Bogart, and Julie Ormond is not Audrey Hepburn; the newer folks are going to come up short, so what can you do?

However, I'm going to give the new Three Musketeers (2011) a chance. The 1993 Disney remake does an excellent job of capturing the vitality of the swordsmen, the urgency of the mission to save the king and the vigor of our youthful protagonist. So I'm not hiding in terror at the mere thought of yet another company doing over Alexandre Dumas' story. Besides, even though I'm delighted by Gene Kelly's acrobatics in the 1948 version, he is a tad overripe to be a naive country boy desperate to join an elite corps of the king's bodyguards; I was happy to see a younger guy play the part for once.

"Overripe, eh? Engarde!"

Usually remakes are annoying, but something happens when there are dozens of remakes of the same legendary story. Audiences begin to embrace most of them as a set and eagerly anticipate their arrival. (Then rip them to shreds in their reviews.)

Take a gander at MSN's Top 10 Unnecessary Remakes. Did they miss any?

Debbie Reynolds: The 2nd Auction

Movie legend Debbie Reynolds is holding the second of her two-part auction on December 3, 2011. It will be in the same place as last time - the Paley Center in Beverly Hills. The pint-sized star will sell off more costumes and props from classic movie sets. This time featuring even more Marilyn Monroe costumes.

You can pre-order the second catalog here:

According to the auction house's email, the perky Ms. Reynolds will appear on Good Morning America  to announce the auction today.

Tony Randall Instructs Johnny Carson on Storytelling

I have the biggest crush on Tony Randall.... Ahem. Here Mr. Randall visits the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in May 1985. He tries to teach Carson how to tell a story after the host's joke bombs.

Movie Stars in Food Art. Bent Objects with Terry Border

This photo is too cute. It's called "Marilyn."
Terry Border,
Photographer Terry Border makes amusing scenes from wire and food.  A few of the bent objects have something to do with classic film stars, but not many. I decided to pass along the link anyway.  The artist posts at

This next photo is called " Many Passionate Fans."  This one reminded me of Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood getting too much love from his adoring public.

Terry Border,

Fair Flair: A Tribute to Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.'s Wardrobe

20th century screen star Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. apparently looked just as dapper off screen as on.Will at A Suitable Wardrobe recounts his thoughts about a recent auction featuring Fairbanks' clothes.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to me about the wardrobe of the late Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. that was auctioned off earlier this month was that it was among the last on the planet to include a full selection of what is now essentially extinct formal clothing. There were tailcoats, morning coats and half a dozen smoking jackets in addition to the black tie that most of us now think of as formal wear

Faribanks'(sic) wardrobe bridged the first and second half of the twentieth centuries.
Read more at A Suitable Wardrobe.

2011 CiMBA Awards

The nominations for the 2011 CiMBA Awards are in and Java's Journey is among them. I'm stoked! Thanks everyone and congratulations to my fellow nominees!

Java's Journey is up for Best Film Review (Drama) for "The Heiress(1949): Her Mother's Presence" and Best Profile of a Classic Movie Performer or Filmmaker for "Judy Garland vs. Deanna Durbin."

See the list of nominees at the Classic Movie Blog Association: CiMBA Nominations Have Been Announced!

Dick Van Dyke Blogathon: Sally Is A Girl

For television characters with self-possession and acerbic wit, Sally Rogers (Rose Marie) from "The Dick Van Dyke Show" is one of the best. A running gag for this supporting role is that Rob's unmarried co-worker is perpetually desperate for a date.

Usually Sally's love interests have quirky personalities and interesting names. [Leo Fassbinder, Herman Glimpshire and Mr. Defenthaler (Sally's code name for all boyfriends) come to mind.] However, in at least one episode about Sally's new beau, the guy has nondescript nomenclature and is completely secondary to the main plot.

In "Sally is a Girl," Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) believes Rob's female co-worker is still single because Rob (Dick Van Dyke) and Buddy (Morey Amsterdam) treat Sally like a guy. Rob counteracts the habit by being overly chivalrous, to disastrous results - Buddy now believes that his two office mates are having an affair!

Although this is technically a Sally episode, the show is less about her new boyfriend (who appears briefly in the 1st and 3rd acts) and more an excuse for Van Dyke to exhibit his virtuosity in physical comedy. After agreeing with Laura to make "Sir Walter Raleigh look like a boor," Rob not only rises when Sally needs assistance, he springs from the couch as if shot out of a canon. When Sally picks up typing paper, Rob kisses her hand before gingerly threading the paper through the typewriter, as if the machine itself might be female. Rob is chivalrous to the point of  impracticality.

Sir Walter Petrie on the move

What this means for Sally is that instead of her usual routine of cracking hilarious nonstop jokes, she has to react to insanity, which in itself is funny.  Rob's sudden effusive behavior initially makes Buddy and Sally think he's pulling a prank when he pulls out her chair. "Alright, what's the gag?," she asks. "All I know is I'd check my accident policy before I sat down," answers Buddy.

After rumors of an affair begin, Rob calms down and Sally returns to being just a part of the team. However, in the end the Sir Raleigh bit has an unintended consequence - the pronounced contrast between her being appreciated at work and not so much on a date. It's obvious how valuable Sally is to the team, even without Rob throwing his coat over a puddle, but the new boyfriend doesn't appreciate Sally's bank of knowledge. When he's at a loss for the name of a car part, Sally chimes in with the answer and the date seems perplexed or affronted that she would know this information. Sally covers her gaffe, and laughs it off, but this is a bittersweet conclusion, especially since we know the guys at the office appreciate her talent on a regular basis.

This post is a part of the Dick Van Dyke Blogathon celebrating the 50th anniversary of the premiere of this timeless television classic. This blogathon is sponsored by The Thrilling Days of Yesteryear. See more entries here:

Just felt like looking at Dean Martin today.


 That was a nice break.

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