The Gay Divorcee, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and a few more films

Gates of Heaven (1978)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

This is a delightful documentary about a depressing topic: dead pets.

Errol Morris interviews Floyd McClure, who dreamed of creating a pet cemetery, and did it, and went bankrupt. He talks with members of the Herbert family, who run the Bubbling Well pet cemetery. These interviews are sorta bookends to the movie, because when McClure's pet cemetery went out of business, the pets buried there were exhumed and reburied at Bubbling Well.

#285  [archive]
MAY 3, 2024

In between we hear from the manager of a rendering facility, which is where your pet probably ends up if you don't have them buried by the professionals. At a rendering facility, the animals are very efficiently harvested, the bones boiled for broth, even the toenails from the pets' paws won't go to waste.

Morris's style is perfect for an intimate topic like this. He doesn't ask questions in his interviews, at least not on camera; he simply sets up the camera and invites the person to talk. And talk they do, about pet families, relatives, how an old woman's (living) dog talks, an insurance salesman who lucked into the pet cemetery business, etc. The art is in the editing, and what Morris leaves on screen is a lot but never too much. Good boy.

When a man on screen who looks about 60 remembers the death of a dog he'd loved when he was a child, the movie becomes more profound that you could've expected.

It brought to mind the pets who've left me over the years. I've always cried and buried their bodies in the yard, wherever I was living; you can follow my trail to find Blackie and Tigger and Spider and Fletch.

When my previous cat, Minky, died in my arms, I dug a hole for her in the narrow strip of grass between my apartment building and the building next door, thinking it was the perfect place — she'd be right outside my window.

But the neighbor's dog dug Minky up, something that's never happened with any other pet I've buried. I found my Minky a week later, chewed-up, beginning-to-mold, half a block from home.

So what's to do? Bury her again, to probably be dug up again? I buried her a second time in the same plot, but left a couple of $3, 5-pound lawn bricks over her grave, which proved too heavy for a dog to nudge out of the way. 

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦  

The Gay Divorcee (1934)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Mimi (Ginger Rogers) wants a divorce, but back in the old days a divorce required grounds, so a harebrained lawyer (Edward Everett Horton) arranges a staged adulterous affair. Mimi is supposed to be "caught" with a hired Lothario not her husband, which will be grounds for divorce.

Along the way, however, Mimi meets an American dancer (Fred Astaire), who's smitten and stubborn and comically pursues her, despite a dozen refusals and his ripping her dress, hitting her car, and simply stalking her, until she gets the mistaken notion that he's her scheduled gigolo. "Come up to my room at midnight."

It was a different era and it's a dated plot, but the comedy remains fresh as home-baked bread.

Most of the songs are splendid —  "Night and Day," "Don't Let It Bother You," "Let's Knock Knees," "A Needle in a Haystack," and the overlong (will it never end?) "The Continental." The dancing is Astaire and Rogers so it's perfection.

There's a bizarre scene early on, in which Astaire and Horton do a "knuckle dance" at their table in a nightclub, wearing skirts on their wrists with their fingers as legs. It's a giggle is all, but watching this at the Stanford Theater in Palo Alto in 1997, it was one of the first giggles shared between me and the woman who became everything to me and still is.

The Gay Divorcee is a good old time musical, but it's extra special to me.

Verdict: BIG YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Geek Maggot Bingo,
or the Freak from Suckweasel Mountain
Streaming free at Internet Archive

A bunch of amateurs play with a camera, and put on a do-it-yourself satire of Frankenstein.

The acting is almost as bad as the photography and direction, the sound jumps and quiets at random, and I'm skeptical that there was even a script, but so what? It's not like they were trying to make a movie. They're goofing around with a camera, that's all.

It's OK as a stupid spectacle, but by halfway through the fun had faded and I clicked it off.

Written, directed, produced, photographed, edited, set decoration and costumes and coffins by Nick Zedd.

Verdict: MAYBE. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Gemini (2023)
Streaming free at YouTube

This is a 12-minute sci-fi short from Dust, the sci-fi website, but it feels like an hour.

It's your standard AI-androids-have-taken-over plot, with one man on a (frequently-slow-motion) journey across a barren countryside. The purpose of his mission either wasn't explained or I forgot amidst the boredom.

There's a bad guy alien/cyborg/monster that speaks with a deep, synthesized, semi-growling voice, same as sci-fi monsters have spoken in cheap movies since movies got sound, only with a bit more static mixed in. This particular baddie talks a lot, and nobody else talks much, leaving the annoyance of his electronically-augmented voice as the only thing to remember from this.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦

Generation (1969)
Streaming free at Rare Film

Doris (Kim Darby) is pregnant, and marries her boyfriend Walter (Pete Duel). It's 1969, so when she tells her father (David Janssen) the news, she leaves out the 'pregnant' part, because it's a comedy. Ha!

The movie is more about Dad than about the new happy family, but even with Carl Reiner and James Coco in the cast, you could wait a long time for any laughs. Janssen looks uncomfortable delivering comedic lines, but looking uncomfortable was always his shtick. 

Music by Dave Grusin, but I didn't notice it, and he had nothing to do with the movie's clunky pop theme song.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1954)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

"We're just two little girls from Little Rock,
who lived on the wrong side of the tracks…"

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a simply fabulous musical comedy about two woman on vacation together, sailing across the ocean and chasing men. Lorelei (Marilyn Monroe) wants a millionaire and actually has one snagged, but she's still looking, and Dorothy (Jane Russell) thinks money is mostly unimportant, but she loves muscles and red corpuscles.

The film is genuinely funny, with excellent singing and dancing, and kooky and exaggerated as everything here is, you get the impression that Lorelei and Dorothy really are best friends.

The songs range from pretty good — "Bye Bye Baby," "Chez Louis," "Down Boy," to very good — "A Little Girl From Little Rock," "When Love Goes Wrong," to stunning — "Ain't There Anyone Here For Love?" and "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend."

The dancing is not Fred & Ginger, but it's very good showgirl-level dancing, and Dorothy and Lorelei are supposed to be showgirls.

"Don't you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn't marry a girl just because she's pretty, but my goodness, doesn't it help?"

I have see this so many times, the smile comes to my face as soon as the "Ain't There Anyone Here For Love?" scene begins, even before the music. "Honey, you'll hurt yourself!" You gotta see 30 musclebound hunks doing calisthenics in Caucasian flesh-tone trunks, while Jane Russell slinks between them singing about what she wants to do with them. How did this get past the Hays Code?

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes sparkles like diamonds, and it's the musical I'd be most likely to recommend for people who don't like musicals. 

"Little rocks or square rocks,
these gals must have their rocks..."

Verdict: BIG YES.


• • • Coming attractions • • •     

Germany Year Zero (1948)

... plus schlock, shorts, and surprises

— — —
Now accepting recommendations for movies,
starting with the letter 'H'.
Just add a comment, below.
— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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  1. It reads like Casey Kasum, only with heart and brains.

    Sister Rosetta is right up there with Sister Bertrille as one of my favorite nuns. Is 'gospel music' a category of sound, or is it 'required' to be about Jesus and Christianity and such?

    Wait, Neil Young is Canadian? Also, first time I've figured out what After the Gold Rush is about.

    The Sonics sound kinda punk. Except, too much talent to be punk, especially on that guitar solo. How can anyone sing like that without needing two days to recover?

    I like that Waliers instrumental. Was this after Bob Marley left? More likely, a different band called the Wailers.

  2. Gospel music is about the "good news" of Jesus and, in general, includes any black religious music that has a beat. It is a forebear of rock and roll along with two or three other categories of vernacular music including rockabilly.

    Neil Young was born in Toronto and started his musical career in Winnipeg. He moved to LA and helped form Buffalo Springfield, then went off with and without Crazy Horse. "After the Gold Rush" was not the first environmentalist song, but remains one of the most profound and universal. Neil named a pretty good album after the song. He knew when he had a winner.

    Yeah, the Wailers are from central Tacoma. Formed in late 1957 and early 1958, they played a majority of sax-based instrumentals, but included vocals from time to time. Their first album was called The Fabulous Wailers which, for a long time, confused people about the name of the band. Later, the boys used the "Fabulous" to differentiate themselves from the Marley group.

    After some personnel changes and after getting out of their original recording contract with Golden Crest Records of New York, The Wailers brought Rockin' Robin Roberts on board and formed their own label. While looking for bands to sign to their new label, they heard about a wild-sounding band from University Place (just south of Tacoma) which, liked the Wailers, rehearsed in a garage. They decided to cold call this band (which turned out to be the Sonics), drove to the address they were given, heard impossibly loud music coming from the garage in back of the house, drove around to the alley, and found dozens of kids dancing up and down the alley, unbeknownst to the Sonics. The Wailer guys thought they had found a winner and, of course, they were right.

    There wasn't suitable recording equipment in Tacoma or Seattle to really capture what the early Sonics sounded like, but they recorded in Seattle anyway and broke some recording components.

    The Wailers, if they are remembered at all, are frequently identified as the first garage band. The Sonics were likely the second.

    I should note that the song I chose for Sister Rosetta didn't really demonstrate her electric guitar skills. She could really run up and down the fretboard.


  3. I assumed you were joking as usual, but I'm guessing you know that Sister Rosetta was not affiliated with any religious order. She was a singer and a guitar player. She did sing spirituals, but she also sang saloon songs. There's no evidence I'm aware of that she drank to excess or used drugs, but when the wind blew she stayed right on the ground.


    1. I didn't know Crazy Horse was a band. Thought it was an album title.

      Didn't know Rickin' Robin was a person. Thought is was a song by Bobby Day and Mikey Jackson.

      Didn't know the Wailers were sorta related to the Sonics. They don't sound much alike, so I'm surprised the Wailers would reach out.

      And I'd always assumed Sister Rosetta was a nun, maybe part of tock'n'roll's nun subgenre in the '60s.

      See how much you're teaching me, Mr Thackeray?

  4. A short phrase can be both a band/singer AND something else.

    And I've posted three or four vids of Sister Rosetta and she's pretty dressed up in all of them. If she ever wore a bad habit I am unaware of it.

    And keep forgetting how young you are. Rockin' Robin was all over KJR through the 60s but he died in an automobile accident in 1967. He had a Masters in biochemistry and likely would have gotten his doctorate had his life not been abbreviated.

    And I forget where you commented on it, but are you saying the Beatles were banned from your house after Lennon's jesus comment? I'm sure my folks never heard about it, but they would have chuckled had they heard Lennon say it.

    I assume you know that Sister is a fairly common female honorific in the Black community (as is Brother, for that matter).

    However, if you want to use me as a goog, you're entirely welcome to.


    1. Oh, I *love* using you as my musical google, and hope it doesn't annoy you too much to continue. I *could* search most of the questions I ask, but your answers are always better than Sergey Brin's.

      Now that you mention it explicitly, I may vaguely remember Rockin' Robin. Mostly I was an Emperor Smith guy.

      There was also a guy named Burns, but I don't remember his first name, who was reliably funny between the songs, but he came on in the 1980s, years after quality DJs went out of style, so he bounced from station to station and was gone in about six months. I called and talked with him on his last day with whatever was his last station. (Best to you, Burns, wherever you are...)

      No, the Beatles weren't banned in the Holland household. They were simply Jane Fonda'd, badmouthed whenever the topic came up.

  5. To be fair, Sergey has to make a billion people happy . . . I only have to make you (and some movie guys) happy. So I can answer your question: mr. brin has to guess.


    1. Brin's guess is a mess.

      Unemployment made me cancel Kago and go back to Google, but Sergey has stopped making me happy. Google search results are worse than a few years ago, worse than even a few months ago. There's gotta be something better.

    2. One of the funniest internet jokes I've heard defines the "Dark Web" as page 2 of any search results.

    3. Made me smile.

      I tried finding my way there once, just to poke around and see what's what. Sure wouldn't mind a reliable source of my prescription sleeping pills without the prescription. Too complicated, though, so I stay on page 1.


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