film reviews

The third act is weak — add more cowbells!

I don’t know about you, but I watch lots of old films that are about the theater and they are always telling the playwright that his (it’s always a “his” in old films) third act is weak, needs more punching up–more cowbells!

Well, the film, One Night in Lisbon, with Madeleine Carroll and Fred MacMurray took that advice to heart and added these to the third act:

A change of country

A new character or two–can’t tell you who or it’ll ruin the plot

Nazis spies!


and of course,

Danger, danger, danger!

They added all these cowbells to the third act of what otherwise had been a cute romantic comedy, with Fred MacMurray pursuing Madeleine Carroll with bird calls and kisses that reminded her of elephants. Doesn’t sound particularly romantic, but it was in a quirky way. Although, some of Fred’s pursuit borderlined on harassment. Oh, and funny Billie Burke simply disappeared by the third act–why leave her out and replace her with Nazis, espionage, and danger?

I disappeared? Why, I had the funniest lines.

A fun film that you can catch free on youtube. Just remember to act surprised by the change in direction it takes–don’t let me spoil it. More cowbells!

Of course, my favorite Madeleine Carroll/Fred MacMurray film is Honeymoon in Bali.



film reviews

She’s sweet and oh so plucky

Imagine an opening scene where a man walks jollily through an Indiana swamp only to fall in and cry for his wife, Katherine! Katherine! She rushes out but can’t save him because she goes into labor. High drama!

The film continues on its dramatic and often comedic way, as it follows the little girl born that night, Elnora, and how she grows up lovely and happy despite her mother. Her mother has turned bitter because she couldn’t save her husband, and turned most bitterly toward Elnora, whom she believes caused her husband’s death.

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Nothing stops our heroine–she dreams of going to college and no one seems to think that’s unusual–everyone, except her mother, of course, gets busy to help her. She needs $200 and she really accomplishes her dream. Ah, plucky heroine!

The film, A Girl of the Limberlost, is based on a 1909 novel and was made into a movie four times, once in the silent era and once in 1934, and again in 1945 and 1990. Since I’m a fan of the films of the 1930’s, I watched the 1934 version. The acting was top-notch as is it in most 1930’s films–a background in silent films and theater makes good actors. A user review on IMDB says the film was a major hit for the studio, Monogram Pictures, making a million dollars. You can watch it free on youtube.

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Even though I won’t watch other of the film versions, I will read the novel and see Elnora’s heroism on the page. Another plucky heroine to add to the long list of Anne Shirley, Nancy Drew, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and others that’ll we’ll continue to stumble across.