Lions, Towers & Shields

Hosted by Shelly Brisbin

A celebration of films from the classic Hollywood era. Shelly Brisbin leads a merry band through recaps and reviews of great old movies from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.

Latest Episode: April 19, 2024 — Employees’ Entrance

96 I Think He *Might* Be A Sociopah

Down in the depths of precode cinema, where Shelly likes to spend torrid nights, there’s a depiction of how a department store can be a little Peyton Place, and how Warren William is never to be trusted. The great precode lothario stars with very young Loretta Young and Wallace Ford (who we just saw as a middle-aged creep in The Breaking Point) as her love interest. Aside from the sleaze, it’s kind of fun to see how a department store works in the 1930s.

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Previous Episodes

  • Lions, Towers & Shields cover art
    April 11, 2024 A Place in the Sun
    95 My Film Erogenous Zones

    Here are Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift at their hottest, with an adaptation of Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy. Just as in Night of the Hunter, Shelley Winters maybe ought to watch her back. George Stevens directs, and here, he’s beginning his epic period. In the 50s, he’ll direct Giant and Shane, among others. This one is full of melodrama and social aspiration and also has a bunch of Oscars, including Stevens’ first for directing. It’s nice to look at.

  • Lions, Towers & Shields cover art
    April 4, 2024 Johnny Guitar
    94 Mourning Culottes

    Johnny Guitar (1954): It’s unusual, it’s weird, and it’s unlike any other film made by these stars. And it’s our first LTS western. Because maybe your show runner has a slightly twisted appreciation for the genre. Nicholas Ray, whose directorial chops we last experienced with In A Lonely Place, directs Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden and Mercedes McCambridge. It’s a story that centers female characters, and gives Joan a chance to stomp around in great western wardrobe. Poor Sterling Hayden is just along for the ride. I picked this because I wanted a Joan Crawford vehicle, and because at least two LTS regulars were excited when I mentioned it.

  • Lions, Towers & Shields cover art
    March 28, 2024 I Know Where I’m Going
    93 Situational Gales

    Every once in awhile, your host takes a flier, choosing a film for us to watch that I’ve seen once or twice, if at all. Also arising from the 2022 draft episode is this English romance from 1945. It’s from the filmmaking team of Powell and Pressburger, and stars Wendy Hiller, so on credentials alone, it’s worth your attention. A young woman travels to the Hebrides to marry an older, wealthy man. But circumstances change her thinking

  • Lions, Towers & Shields cover art
    March 21, 2024 An American in Paris
    92 We’ve Got All the French You Need

    Gene Kelly was at the height of his powers in 1951, starring in musicals for MGM, and choreographing some of them. Here, Vincent Minelli directs, but the dancing is by Kelly. Leslie Caron makes her film debut, and the rest of the cast has a decidedly continental vibe. The film is “inspired” by George Gershwin’s 1928 musical of the same name, but the writing credit here goes to Alan Jay Lerner, aka half of the celebrated Lerner and Lowe musical composing team. An American in Paris won a boatload of Oscars, including Best Picture.

  • Lions, Towers & Shields cover art
    March 14, 2024 The Breaking Point
    91 I Wouldn’t Go to Salinas Either

    Unlike the mid-40s film that first brought us Bogie and Bacall, The Breaking Point is a relatively faithful adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s story, To Have and Have Not. This one stars John Garfield (in one of his final films) and Patricia Neal. Michael Curtiz directs, but if that suggests a routine Warner Bothers potboiler (I love those) it is not. Garfield is a boat captain talked into doing some smuggling. There’s a love triangle and an ending that’ll just wrench you.

  • Lions, Towers & Shields cover art
    March 7, 2024 Dodsworth
    90 Ruth Chatterton is Jacked

    This 1936 film is based on the well-known novel of the same name, by Sinclair Lewis. It’s the story of a successful middle-aged man (Walter Huston) who wants something new from his life. That’s what his wife (Ruth Chatterton) wants, too, but their ideas are very different, and not compatible. And there’s Mary Astor, living her best life in an Italian villa, being all awesome and stuff. It’s fun to watch these three actors work. The writing is good, too. William Wyler (who we last heard from in The Best Years of Our Lives) directs

  • Lions, Towers & Shields cover art
    December 7, 2023 It Happened on Fifth Avenue
    89 You Can’t Be Evil in a Cardigan

    If the Jeopardy answer is “A Christmas-themed film of the mid-1940s”, you might expect the question to be “What is ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’” or “What is ‘Miracle on 34th Street.’” But on this year’s LTS holiday episode, those questions would be wrong! Our movie this year comes with stars like Victor Moore and Don DeFore, not Jimmy Stewart or Donna Reed. But our little holiday movie has a lot to recommend it. There’s found family, a budding love story, a challenge to capitalism and entrepreneurship by war veterans. It all happens at Christmastime in a New York mansion that’s been appropriated for the holidays by our eclectic cast of characters.

  • Lions, Towers & Shields cover art
    December 1, 2023 Kind Hearts and Coronets
    88 Plausibly Evil

    I hear that Alec Guinness made a couple of movies in the 1970s or 80s that you may know. This is not that. This is a classic Ealing Studios comedy in which Alec plays eight characters. Because it’s a British comedy, I was not surprised to find that it dealt with social class. Robert Hamer directs, and Dennis Price is the actual star. This episode is full of connections to other things we like. Everyone brought the trivia.

  • Lions, Towers & Shields cover art
    November 23, 2023 The Night of the Hunter
    87 The Barbara Stanwyck of Five-Year-Olds

    This is a disturbing film: also a good one. Charles Laughton’s only directorial outing focuses on a con man (and worse) terrorizing a pair of children as they run from him. He’s attempting to secure some money he covets, and to shut up those meddling kids. Robert Mitchum is our charismatic villain and star, along with Shelley Winters and silent luminary Lillian Gish, also turning in worthy performances. Buckle up, friends. You’ve been warned. Ish.

  • Lions, Towers & Shields cover art
    November 17, 2023 Trouble in Paradise
    86 Bring a Fan and a Bucket

    For me, this movie answers some important LTS questions: what did that Ernst Lubitsch guy direct besides To Be Or Not To Be? How was Herbert Marshall ever a romantic lead? And finally, where are the precodes? It’s been forever!

    TIP also give me the chance to introduce Kay Francis and Miriam Hopkins, the fashion-forward queen of Warner Brothers before Bette Davis, and Miss Davis’ later southern belle nemesis in several films - respectively.

    Trouble in Paradise is a romantic triangle comedy featuring “a gentleman thief, a (lady) pickpocket” and a fancy woman who is their mark. It’s very funny, and very risqué in the way that precode movies tend to be - could they say that in 1932? Highly recommended by your host and at least two panel regulars.

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