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  • Hell's Heroes

    Hell's Heroes

    Universal's first all-talkie to be filmed outdoors, an adaptation of Peter Kyne's oft-filmed novella Three Godfathers. Although this adaptation pales in comparison with my fond memories of the surviving John Ford version (1948), it remains one of the better early sound westerns. Directed by a young William Wyler, the staging is engaging, and the story is given an unsentimental, hard-edged handling that distinguishes it from the familiar Ford rendition. There remains a frequent infestation by early talkie stiltedness, and the…

  • Mickey's Choo-Choo

    Mickey's Choo-Choo

    A Mickey Mouse cartoon on a chug-a-chug-a-choo-choo theme. Unfortunately, it's also a document of Disney's disreputable origins. Mickey Mouse so obviously began life as a blackface minstrel – here when Mickey and Minnie ride the train, they ride to "I Wish I Was in Dixie", and even the train's face, not to mention the faces of its passengers, resembles blackface – and it's just so frustrating how Disney Corp. has successfully hidden this history from wide dissemination and convinced literally millions of families to embrace a blackface minstrel character as an endearing icon of wholesome child-rearing. Anyway, I wonder why my babysitting business never took off.

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  • What Happened on Twenty-Third Street, New York City

    What Happened on Twenty-Third Street, New York City

    A woman's skirt shoots up when she walks under the gushing air of a sidewalk grate, fifty-four years before Marilyn's iconic performance in The Seven Year Itch. Only today have I learned the historical significance of this film's title. Why does it happen on Twenty-Third Street? The answer can be found by pairing this film with the 1903 actuality At the Foot of the Flatiron, in which pedestrians clutch their hats and skirts on a windy day on the corner…

  • I Love Melvin

    I Love Melvin

    One of the 50 best films in the history of cinema. Starstruck gal Debbie Reynolds wants to be on the cover of Look magazine — paging Dr. Laura Mulvey? — and apprentice photographer Donald O'Connor promises he'll help. Perfectly trifling, then, but what's remarkable here isn't the what but the how. Its wide-eyed stars direct off Singin' in the Rain (which O'Connor knowingly references with a lamppost leap), the dance numbers here rank among the most creative ever made for…