Saturday, October 4, 2014

The O Canada Blogathon - Of Hacks and Hoseheads

This blog is sponsored  by The O Canada  Blogathon, running through Saturday, October Fourth, through October Ninth, 2014
hosted by
Ruth from Silver Screenings and Kristina from Speakeasy, hosted by Kristina Dijan and R.A. Kerr!

Dori's pick - Two O’Clock Courage (1945):  I’m Just Wild About “Harry!”

Anthony Mann is one of film’s most compelling and versatile directors/ producers, covering genres ranging from Westerns, like The Tall Target (1951), starring Dick Powell; and Robert Cummings in The Black Book, a.k.a Reign of Terror (1949) a film noir thriller set during  the French Revolution, among others. The multifaceted Mann could do it all, including helming rough and ready urban noirs such as T-Men (1947), Side Street (1950), and Raw Deal (1948), as well as costume epics like the aforementioned The Black Book.  Mann especially excelled with his noir-style collaborations with James Stewart, including Winchester '73 (1950), Stewart’s neo-noir Westerns, including The Far Country (1955), Bend of the River (1952), including The Naked Spur (1953); Bend of the River (1952); The Far Country (1955); and The Man From Laramie (1955). 

Two O’Clock Courage turned out to be Anthony Mann’s first directorial assignment, a good solid “B” picture” for RKO Radio Pictures!  (Say it with me  a la The Rocky Horror Picture Show: A: “An RKO Radio Picture.  What the heck is a Radio Picture?”).  Since then, the film has had a strong following and acclaim, with many of Mann’s signature tropes on display. Two O’Clock Courage was produced at RKO Radio Pictures!  Mann’s film may have had a relatively short running-time of a fleet-footed 70 minutes, but director Mann shines in his directorial debut.  The film weaves suspense and playfully cheeky humor, while blending film noir suspense with wry wit.  Fun Fact:  The script by Robert E. Kent is full of surprises, including co-writer Robert E. Kent’s original treatment, based on the work of humorist and children’s-book author Gelett Burgess, who I loved as a kid!  Who knew Burgess had film noir in his soul as well?  Now there’s a gent with range! 

You can't get blood from a stone, but you can from
Tom Conway's head! (Big owie!)
The cast blends memorable stars and entertaining character actors, including Richard Lane (Wonder Man; the Boston Blackie movie series with Lane as Inspector Farraday. Watch for another up-and coming young star, billed as “Bettejane Greer”; she soon rose to stardom as noir temptress Jane Greer, who became a film star in Out of the Past and The Big Steal, as well as the James Cagney biopic Man Of A Thousand Faces (1957)! Our star is Tom Conway from The Falcon film series, as well as Cat People; I Walked With A Zombie (1943;) The Seventh Victim (1943) from Val Lewton)!  Fun Fact: Conway was also married to Queenie Leonard from And Then There Were None (1945); The Narrow Margin; 1001 Dalmatians (the original Disney animated film!

Beaned, slugged, crowned; it all means the same - Amnesia!
The ever-suave Tom Conway stars as a mystery man — a man so mysterious, even he doesn’t know who he is!  Where’s The Falcon when you need him?!  But that opening scene is swell, starting with a tracking shot of Conway as he staggers up to a street sign, blood trickling slowly from under his hat, is a stylish grabber of an opening that keeps you hooked!  This poor dazed guy is lucky our heroine, Patty Mitchell, taxi cab driver by day, would-be stage actress by night, was paying attention when our man-in-distress almost got run over!  But when it becomes clear that our guy is in a bad way, kind-hearted Patty helps him to find out who he is as we drive into the night in Patty’s cab, “Harry”! (Yes, that’s what Patty calls her taxicab,“Harry!)

Ann Rutherford - they don't make cabbies like her no more!
Is our man in trouble, or a troublemaker? Can our charming, spunky heroine Patty Mitchell (Ann Rutherford),a cabbie  and would-be actress, lend him a hand?  Fate steps in just in time to for Patty to save our dazed stranger and would-be stage star, and they’re off to see who our man is, and who wanted him clobbered.  The only clue is a script titled "Two’Clock Courage" (Yay, we have title!), and the hot stage star Barbara Borden (Jean Brooks from Val Lewton's The Seventh Victim, as well as several Falcon films; Brooks looks lovely as a blonde, too).  In Robert to Osborne’s intro to Two’O Clock Courage, he playfully describes co-star Ann Rutherford as: “the prettiest cab driver you’ve ever seen!”

Even when she was starlet
"Bettejane Greer", Jane Greer
was smokin'!
Ms. Rutherford had long been an endearing young MGM ingénue as Mickey Rooney’s sweetie, Polly Benedict at MGM, as well as Red Skelton’s fiancée in the comedy-thriller Whistling in the Dark and its comedy-mystery sequels, not to mention a modest little flick called Gone With The Wind, where our gal Ann played her sister Carreen at Selznick Studios, plus her MGM days as Andy Hardy’s sweetie, Polly Benedict in the “Andy Hardy” movies.  And don’t forget Ann as the dreary yet hilarious fiancée of Danny Kaye in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty from Samuel Goldwyn!

Fun Fact:  Ann Rutherford had thought she she’d been a U.S. citizen all her life, until her plans to visit Europe in the 1950s showed her otherwise: our Ann was a Canadian!  Happily, she was able to get citizenship papers, and Ann  became a citizen of the U.S, fair and square!

Back to Patty and her new amnesiac friend, it’s not all playtime for our no-name hero, by any means!  On closer inspection, it turns out the natty gent has a nasty gash on his head, and he can’t remember who he is, despite his sharp clothes.  Even worse, Patty realizes this dashing fellow is injured, all dazed with blood dripping (albeit tastefully by 1945 suspense movie standards), without a clue as to where and who he’s from and who he is.  Diagnosis from Doctor Dorian: Protagonist on a dark Los Angeles street, almost getting run over by our heroine’s taxi!  Patty Mitchell ( poor guy almost gets run over by a cab driver, just missing a hit-and-run from our dazed hero)!

This hat band is brimming over with clues!
Luckily for our traumatized fella, he finally catches a break with the help of Patty Mitchell (Rutherford from Gone With The Wind; The Secret Life of Walter Mitty; the comedy-mystery Whistling in the Dark and its three sequels, also in Whistling in the Dark and co-starring Rutherford and Red Skelton) feel sorry for our beleaguered hero.  Patty and her trusty hack, Harry – yes, that’s the name of Patty’s cab (Hey, I have a car named “Moonpearl’, so why I shouldn’t our gal Patty have a car called “Harry”?  But I digress!)  Patty realizes this dashing fellow is injured, all dazed with blood dripping (albeit tastfully by 1945 suspense movie standards), without a clue as to where who from and who he is.  Diagnosis from Doctor Dorian: Amnesia, the scourge of every film noir victim, the poor devils!  Our man Patty and Patty go all through the night with wit and tenderness between the zanier parts of our caper.

How we had to look things up before Google.
Fun Fact:
  In addition to being a busy film star at MGM and Samuel Goldwyn (the latter being Goldwyn’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), Ann Rutherford was also married for many years to David May, the head honcho of the May Department store for the rest of their lives, I’m told, bless them!

Two O’Clock Courage was a remake from 1936, starring Walter Abel, longtime veteran of movies and Broadway. In fact, Abel played the amnesiac hero in the 1936 suspense drama Two in the Dark, which was remade in 1945 with Tom Conway and Ann Rutherford as Two O’Clock Courage, hence our tale!!
Fun Fact:  Tom Conway has a brother:  Oscar-winning Best Supporting actor George Sanders, Suave Fall of Fame Winner!  He was also the Oscar-winning Best Supporting Actor in All About Eve!

Either "Dave Renwick is a clothes horse,
or he's got a double life!
Ann Rutherford need her papers, - our hero made
sure Patty got hers!
Along the way of this playful mystery, our man at least he east has a name, even though it’s a nickname.   Our amnesiac hero just might be a killer, yet he’s equally sure he’s not a killer, goshdarnit!  The ever-perky Ann Rutherford plays the young actress/cabbie who takes pity on poor helpless Conway and helps him find both his true identity and the real murderer, with both warmth and zany comedy, including a nosy landlady, complicating this dizzy case with nosy reporters (Richard Lane of Wonder Man) and zany comedy.  During their search for answers, our man and Patty run into and afoul of L.A.’s Finest as the newspapers start asking for answers, too; it’s always something!  

Sometimes the broad comic relief is jarring compared to the overall taut film noir mood, but the pace is fast, and Conway and Rutherford have a charming rapport.  Jean Brooks and Tom Conway especially moved me in their dramatic roles.  Conway in particular had a sad, haunted look in his eyes that touched our hearts.

Service with a slam!

Vinnie's pick - Strange Brew (1983) - "To Be or Not to be, eh?"

The genesis of Great White North, possibly the most well known recurring skit from SCTV, is as eminently Canadian as the sketch.  The show needed two minutes of "local" material to satisfy the stringent rules for Canadian Content.  Dave Thomas sarcastically suggested that he and Rick Moranis dress up in flannel and parkas and ramble for two minutes in easy chairs in front of a map of Canada.  The producers said that'd be fine, and Canada's favorite sons were born.

After TV fame and a hit record album (featuring a hit single with lead vocals by Geddy Lee from Rush), the world of film was the obvious next step. With a script by Moranis and Thomas with help from Steve De Jarnatt (the devious maniac who brought us Miracle Mile and Cherry 2000), the McKenzies stepped into an expanded cartoony world in a tale that was blatantly ripped off from Hamlet.

We first see the brothers as they introduce their science fiction magnum opus, The Mutants of 2051 A.D.  When the film breaks and the audience riots, Bob gives their father's beer money to a distraught father whose kids saved up their allowance to attend the premiere.  This requires a clever plan to get their dad some beer, but as they are not clever men, they stuff a mouse in a beer bottle and attempt to complain for free beer.  They're sent to the Elsinore (!) brewery, where most of the plot is located.

We meet in rapid succession Pam Elsinore (Lynne Griffin) who is set to inherit the company after the passing of her father, Claude Elsinore (Paul Dooley), her uncle and now step father, who married her mother just a tad too soon after the passing of her father (Like I said, Hamlet) and Brewmeister Smith (Max Von Sydow) a man with plans for world domination through a plan that includes drugged beer, organ music, lunatics, and hockey.

With the exception of Thomas and Moranis, and magnificent character actor Paul Dooley, the cast of the film is largely made up of actors who are World Famous In Canada.  Lynne Griffin has had a solid career in Canadian productions, as has Angud MacInnes who played ex-hockey star Jean laRose.  Smith's assistant Brian McConnachie, in addition for a steady acting career and a writer for both SCTY and Saturday Night Live, is best known for being a writer for the National Lampoon, which was a vicious and magnificent humor magazine back in the day, as opposed to being nothing more than a brand name you can license and slap on your product like Black and Decker.

"I could crush your a nut.
But I won't. Because I need you."
Shakespeare couldn't have written a better line.
But the star of the film is undoubtedly Max Von Sydow.  He is that rarest of actors who can look at a script, figure out exactly how much fun he can have with a role, and deliver a performance that both shines and works perfectly in the film. This is a man who started working with Bergman in great works like The Seventh Seal, played in a TV movie in The Diary of Anne Frank, and yes, I was getting to it, was Ming the Merciless in the nigh-legendary version of Flash Gordon.  He's currently filming a part for the next Star Wars film.  If there was a just and righteous God in heaven, he would again be playing Ming.

The film takes place in a mad cartoon-logic world where people can stay underwater for almost an hour by breathing the air trapped in empty beer bottles, ghosts communicate via video games, a man can drink an entire vat of beer, and dogs can fly if sufficiently bribed with the promised of beer and bratwurst.

It's a mad film that never fails to bring a smile to my face, and it was a delight popping it into the DVD player to enjoy again.  I expect the same will be true for you.



  1. When the lion burps! You hosers did a nice job picking fun movies, both enjoyable for different reasons, and for spotlighting the bubbly Ann Rutherford (2 O'Clock is a lot of fun, I hope people check it out after reading this), as well as the Brew (a movie I know by heart!) Thanks for both joining us, not a one-man army, like Heston in the Omega Man. It wouldn't have been the same without you.

    I enjoyed the beer. Oh I mean the movies eh.

    1. Kristina, we of Team Bartilucci are tickled that you got a kick out of our goofy double-feature of TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE and STRANGE BREW! My hubby Vinnie has loved STRANGE BREW for ages, but for some reason, I never got to watch the whole movie from start to finish, so I'm happy to have STRANGE BREW here in a swell new DVD of our very own! :-D You cracked us up with your OMEGA MAN quip! Thanks for your swell praise and for including us in the O Canada fun and frolic! :-D

  2. Dor and Vinnie, thank you so much for adding these two films to the O Canada blogathon! Dor, I loved your playful review of "Two O'Clock Courage". I know I'd love this film – your enthusiasm has made me even more anxious to see it. (And WHO KNEW Ann Rutherford was Canadian!)

    Vinnie, it's been years since I've seen "Strange Brew" and you've made me want to see it again. What a crazy film, and one that needs a resurgence. Your post will help do that, I hope.

    1. Ruth, we of Team Bartilucci thank you kindly for your for kudos for our O Canada double-feature! Your enthusiasm for Team Bartilucci's post for TWO''CLOCK COURAGE and STRANGE BREW has us smiling, and we're always happy to give a little love to movies wild and wonderful movies like these, and we're loving your fun and fabulous O CANADA Blogathon, teaching me more about Canada to boot! :-D Thanks for including us in the fun my friend! :-D A Good Day indeed!

  3. Eh, hose off, you nobs! Take off, hosers!

    An odd and wonderful mash-up, for sure! I'm inspired to watch both of these again; thanks so much for that.

    Clayton @ Phantom Empires

    1. Clay, all of us here at Team Bartilucci HQ are glad you got a kick out of our mash-up for the O CANADA double-bill! Glad to you got a kick out of it! :-D

  4. Always liked the Bob & Doug Mackenzie routines. I think I saw STRANGE BREW once, long ago, but don't recall. I imagine seeing MVS do comedy makes it worth checking out again.

    1. Rich, Vinnie and I are glad you and our pals, Kristina and Ruth, our fabulous co-hosts! We're glad we could bring STRANGE BREW to the fun, by way of the O CANADA Blogathon! Check out TWO 'CLOCK COURAGE if you like! :-D

  5. Great post - although I'm ashamed to admit I've never seen either if them! I've discovered lots of gems through this blogathon... your energy and enthusiasm has convinced me to put them to the top of my watch list :)

    1. No shame, my friend -- now you can read and watch and enjoy TWO 'CLOCK COURAGE and STRANGE BREW, and voila! New movies to discover and enjoy! We of Team Bartilucci look forward to watching your piece about Florence Lawrence, too! :-D Aren't Blogathons swell?

  6. Dorian & Vinnie: separately you guys are terrific, but together - dynamite!!

    1. Aw, thanks, Marsha! We of Team Bartilucci are always happy you guys enjoy our zany posts! :-D

  7. Truly a Canadian double-bill for the ages.

    I had no idea "Two O'clock Courage" was a remake. Such a fun movie. So well-paced and Tom and Ann are a wonderful team.

    Can't watch "Strange Brew" ever again. My husband will slip into the old Bob and Doug routine and he may never come back. It is fun for us as well because we can recognize some of the locations.

    1. Paddy, Vinnie and I are delighted that you got a kick out of our TWO'CLOCK COURAGE & STRANGE BREW double-bill! You had Vinnie and me laughing out loud with your witty quips about your STRANGE BREW anecdote! You know, I never had a chance to watch TWO IN THE DARK, the original version of TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE. I'd like to check it out sometime, but nothing's better tham Ann and Tom, if you ask us! :-D

  8. NEVER HEARD OF EITHER OF THESE FILMS! And me with a giant crush on Tom Conway. Go figure. I must find this and watch it, Dorian. Thanks for the introduction. You know how nutso I am about Tom and this movie is moving right to the top of my To Watch list - if I can find it. I like Anne Rutherford as a spunky cab driver - she was good at spunky. Plus Conway played great with that sort of miss. :)

    Vinnie, I must say I love that bit of head-crushing dialogue. Ha. Never saw this film, but it sounds a hoot. Thanks for sharing. You mean dogs can't fly? Oops. (Just kidding.)

    1. Yvette, I'm surprised you haven't gotten ahold of TWO 'CLOCK COURAGE and the wild and crazy STRANGE BREW, but I think you'll enjoy them, being a Falcon fan (not the football kind); sometimes you'll find it on TCM! Fans of Bob & Doug McKenzie and other fans of the Second City gang, will especially like the wacky STRANGE BREW! You made our day with your witty quips, my friend! :-D

  9. Admittedly, I have not seen either of these films. I recently caught up with Mann's T-MEN but obviously still have lot more to catch up on. Always fun posts to read.

    1. John, I hear you! The only drawback of glorious Blogathons like our delightful O CANADA is that it's not always easy to catch up with them all, but it's certainly fun to try to catch them all (as our POKEMAN daughter fan would say :-))! If you do get time to catch up with TWO 'CLOCK COURAGE, I think you'll enjoy them. Oh, and I caught up with T-MEN, too! Swell flick! Thanks for your comments, and best wishes to you and yours on this holiday weekend! :-D

  10. I haven't seen either of th movies, but I really want to watch Two O'Clock Courage now that you covered it. I must say that Ann Rutherford's story as a "surprise Canadian" is very interesting. And the Tom Conway and George Sanders didn't look like brothers...
    Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)

    1. Le, I'm happy to see you coming out to play with you and the rest of the gang for O CANADA Blogathon for Team Bartilucci's TWO 'O CLOCK COURAGE and STRANGE BREW! It's amazing how many stars have turned out to be Canadians. I think you'll enjoy our double-feature, and I look forward to reading your reviews, too! Thanks for joining the O CANADA fun, my friend! :-D

    2. Oh dear! Our longtime friend and fellow blogger Sean Gallagher of The Joy And Agony of Movies wasn't able to post my TOTED comment for some reason! We're so sorry for the difficulty, and we'll do our best to fix it so I can also catch up with your other O CANADA posts, too; I think you'll enjoy them when you get a chance to watch them. Have a great holiday weekend, my friend, and sorry for the difficulty!
      16 mins · Unlike · 1

  11. "What the heck is a Radio Picture?" Beats me. I'm still trying to figure out why little red wagons are named "Radio Flyers". All I know is that I've always had a warm spot for the RKO logo (and have dreamed about going to the North Pole and finding an enormous radio aerial there).

    Anyway . . .

    Here's where I nervously toe the ground and confess that, even as an Anthony Mann fan ("in just seven days/I can make you Anthony Ma-nnnn-a-a-a-annnnn!"), (and I even liked "El Cid", which admittedly isn't the easiest thing in the world to do), I have never seen "Two O'Clock Courage". You have this habit of finding films which, by rights, I should've already seen (a Tom Conway starring role? How the heck did I ever miss that?), but haven't for one reason or another,

    "Patty and her trusty hack, Harry – yes, that’s the name of Patty’s cab". Say, think about it for a moment. If Patty had a relationship with a Greek shipping tycoon, instead of a cab, you could've subtitled your review "I'm just wild about Ari!".

    (Did I mention that I haven't seen the film?)

    Your description of Ann Rutherford's character sort of made me think of Joy Barlow's character from "The Big Sleep". As that admittedly interesting side-story was never expanded, "Two O'Clock Courage" might be the next best thing.

    "Ann Rutherford had thought she she’d been a U.S. citizen all her life, until her plans to visit Europe in the 1950s showed her otherwise", Yeah, she didn't discuss baseball, television, labor strikes or Senate investigations. She just wasn't convincing. And all her clothes had French labels on them.

    Okay, enough Tomfoolery (or, rather, TomConwayfoolery). Putting the film on my "must see" list. And on to . . .

    "Strange Brew",

    Oh my . . .

    Well, first off, I wasn't a fan of "Great White North" so much as I liked "Monster Chiller Horror Theater", the "Doctor Tongue" features, "The Farm Film Report" and "The Shmenge Brothers" (which, if you knew anything about classic early Sunday morning television in Texas, hit very close to home). But, as you pointed out, "Strange Brew" did feature Max von Sydow, so it is admittedly hard to pass by, It also has the attraction of being an adaptation of a "SNL" style comedy skit which actually worked on some levels (which is certainly more than anyone could say about most other films of that nature). And the movie leaves me always craving back bacon.

    1. Michael, you're a swell pal as well as a whiz at all manner of film from films from yesteryear (Team Bartilucci's favorites, as you've often noted :-)! Your playful wit about unmasking our favorite Canadian (and mine, Vinnie being Canadian too) with Ann Rutherford a la that classic spoof from TO CATCH A THIEF, as well as saluting the sweet and sexy Joy Barlow from THE BIG SLEEP, not to mention! Ari O, you clever gent! Vin and I remember all things SVTV, with being one of our favorites"Doctor Tongue" Thanks, my friend, and have a swell weekend for you and the rest of the gang at Schloss Woolf! P.S. Pardon us if we unwitting misspell anything; it's getting late here at Team B. HQ! :-D