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Tag Archives: Kay Francis

Weekly Mishmash II: January 17-23

The Monkees — The Monkees [Deluxe Edition]. Though I’ve only been subscribing to mp3 download site eMusic for a few months, they’ve already hit upon a treasure trove of new albums from the Warner Music Group just added this month. This move doesn’t sit well with the indie-lovin’ eMusic faithful, but it’s a-okay with me. The first thing I decided to sample was the Monkees’ first album from 1966, as reissued with bonus tracks by Rhino in 2006. Despite having only one hit (“Last Train to Clarksville”), this was a groovy little album. The affable voice of Micky Dolenz can be heard on most of the tracks, with a few vocals going to Davy Jones and Mike Nesmith (Peter Tork is nowhere to be heard). Naysayers find the Monkees to be a fake Beatles, but mostly what I get off this LP is a smoothed out version of the L.A. garage rock popular at that time. Although most of these tracks are written by Tommy Boyce-Bobby Hart or Gerry Goffin-Carole King, Nesmith’s winsome “Papa Gene’s Blues” proves the band had at least one talented songwriter within its ranks. Nifty vintage commercials and early demoes of tunes that wound up on later Monkees albums make up the bonus tracks.
kayfrancismybillMy Bill (1938). TCM last week celebrated the birthday of actress Kay Francis with a morning-long slate of her soapy vehicles, of which this particular one got caught via the TiFaux. This was apparently the first film the fabulous Francis made after she made a stink with Warner Bros. over the terms of her contract. As a result, the Warners brass started casting her in lower budget b-movies (they even gave her scripts that highlighted her Elmer Fuddlike speech impediment — ouch!). My Bill is a heartwarming family melodrama with the glamorous Kay miscast as cash strapped widow and mother of four children in a small, judgemental town. It’s a very simplistic and predictable film, but I actually enjoyed the way Francis interacted with the actors playing her children — particularly Dickie Moore as the only child who sticks with his ma after his bratty siblings decide to stay with their rich aunt. Moore is cute without being cloying, providing the emotional anchor to this admittedly slight tale. Read more about this film (and the rest of Miss Francis’ oeuvre) at the Kay Francis’ Life and Career weblog.
Pandorum (2009). A “been there, done that” sci fi horror film set on a spacecraft with crew members emerging from hypersleep to find themselves lost in space and outnumbered by grungy, mysterious creatures. Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid do decent enough jobs heading up a quirky cast, but there’s nothing novel to be found in a familiar story populated with characters from the action/horror playbook. Tough chick? Check. Ethnic dude who meets an early end? Check. Batshit crazy guy? Check. Drinking game: take a swig each time Foster takes a tumble.
They Live (1988). “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.” Pulpy fun from director John Carpenter and bemulleted, surprisingly hunky leading man Roddy Piper. This is a rather obvious anti-conformity screed, but it’s pretty enjoyable once you turn your brain off. Piper’s five minute long fistfight with actor Keith David was an interesting sight, but what stood out for me was the homo-subtext between the two actors (that couldn’t have been done on purpose, could it?). I like the idea that aliens live among us, beings which can only be seen through special sunglasses, but Piper must have been a fool to think glassy-eyed Meg Foster was a human. Abrupt ending was a disappointment.