Lions, Towers & Shields

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.

All Episodes

  • Lions, Towers & Shields cover art
    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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    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.

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    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.

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    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

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    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.

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    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.

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    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

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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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    November 9, 2023 Silent Sampler
    85 No Talking!

    For this episode, we’re breaking format a bit. Instead of focusing on one film, we’ll talk about several: all from the silent film era. It’s not a draft, but each panelist has picked a movie, and we’ve all watched them! Our guide is guest host, Micki Maynard!

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    November 2, 2023 In A Lonely Place
    84 The Healthy Habits of Hat Check Girls

    Nicholas Ray directs Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Graham. Bogie is Dix Steele, who should not be confused for Captain Picard’s hollowdeck alter ego, Dixon Hill. (Am I the only one who does that?) Bogie is not a detective, but a screenwriter suspected of murder. In A Lonely Place is considered one of the best film noir made, and Bogart and Graham give excellent performances.

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    October 26, 2023 Cat People
    83 The Original Sin is Littering

    It’s the age-old story: Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl get married, girl’s psychosexual hangups put strain on their marriage, girl may or may not begin turning into a large murderous panther because of an ancient family curse … you know, the usual. Horror auteur Val Lewton and ace director Jacques Tourneur spin a low budget into shadow-drenched, spine-tingling gold in a creepy classic that takes the time to care about its characters, and brilliantly lets sound, suggestion, and your imagination do all the heavy lifting. Featuring the most infamous bus in movie history! (Note: This is the 1940s original, not the, er, sweaty 1980s remake.) With your guest host, Nathan Alderman.

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    August 31, 2023 Sunset Boulevard
    82 Diva with a Monkey

    We watch Billy Wilder’s story of a silent film queen’s life in middle age and the screenwriter who stumbles into her world. Noir, melodrama, dark humor, horror. It’s all here in this classic, staring Gloria Swanson. She’s all of 46 when she made this movie, but a has-been like her character. This episode is full of excellent trivia and unexpected connections made by our super-smart panel.

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    August 24, 2023 The Palm Beach Story
    81 I Will Defend the Weenie King

    Probably the best of the Sturges comedies, The Palm Beach Story is part romance, part screwball comedy, part drawing room comedy. The performances sparkle, the movie looks great, and the plot is inventive. Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert are our delightful stars. And I get to talk about Mary Astor some more. Don’t miss this one, kids.

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    August 17, 2023 Easy Living
    80 Weapons-Grade Winsome

    Fair warning: this recap of a Preston Sturges film from 1937 also features Barbie content.

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    August 10, 2023 An Interview with Eddie Muller
    79 Stock Your Noir Bar

    Shelly talks with the “czar of noir” about his new book, his favorite films noir and what’s happening at Turner Classic Movies.

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    August 3, 2023 Hail the Conquoring Hero
    78 Subversive on so Many Levels

    Who would dare comment on the inherently propagandistic aspects of the war effort, right in the middle of World War II? That would be Preston Sturges. A soldier is discharged from the Army because he has hay fever, but is declared a war hero when he returns to his hometown. Eddie Bracken and Ella Raines (last seen on LTS in Phantom Lady) are your stars.

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    July 27, 2023 Unfaithfully Yours (1948)
    77 A Film Noir and a Dessert Topping

    The Summer of Sturges continues with a movie that’s not in a class with The Lady Eve. But we still need to talk about it. World-renown conductor Rex Harrison suspects his much younger wife (Linda Darnell) of cheating on him, and he dreams up three different ways to punish her for it.

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    July 20, 2023 The Lady Eve
    76 A Trunk Full of Dinner Jackets

    We begin the summer of (Preston) Sturgess celebration with a true classic. Director and stars were at their best here, and it’s a treat to watch LTS’ favorite dame work her magic on Henry Fonda. I have four more Sturgess offerings coming up, but this one is hard to beat.

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    July 13, 2023 Breakfast at Tiffany’s
    75 Paul is the Cat

    Audrey Hepburn is iconic as Holly Gollighty. Is there more to say? Of course. That’s why we have a podcast.

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    April 13, 2023 To Be Or Not To Be
    74 I Would Watch A Whole Movie About Greenberg

    The Lubitsch Touch applied to Nazi occupation? You bet. Carole Lombard and Jack Benny star as members of an acting troupe in Poland, scrambling after the Nazis arrive. It’s funny and serious all at once, with great performances. The film was released two months after Lombard died in a plane crash, and would have earned good will, had the subject matter not been a rough go for Americans of the time.

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    April 8, 2023 Key Largo
    73 Manly Seamanship

    We return to Huston (John) and Bogart, but there’s also Lauren Bacall, Claire Trevor (Oscar winner for this), Edward G. Robinson and more. The cast is trapped together in a Florida hotel, awaiting a hurricane. It’s a film noir, so there are secrets and gun play, plus the eventual storm to contend with. And a boat.

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    March 30, 2023 All That Heaven Allows
    72 He’s Got Acreage

    Here’s a movie from Douglas Sirk’s high period. We’ve only talked about Sirk in the context of “Lured,” a movie I think is underrated, but one that looks nothing like this splashy 50s melodrama. This one stars Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson. And I get to talk about Agnes Moorehead. So, bonus! Can a lonely widow find love with a tree farmer? Stay tuned. We also mention Todd Haynes’ excellent 2002 remake (you read that right!), “Far from Heaven” with Julianne Moore.

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    March 23, 2023 Gun Crazy
    71 She Killed a Man in Reno

    “A fascinating crumminess.” That’s how Pauline Kael described Joseph Lewis’ “Gun Crazy,” a noir whose cast you probably won’t know, but whose visual style and essential seediness are compelling. It’s a story about two people with a mutual obsession with guns, but it’s told with sensitivity and a focus on their relationship.

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    March 16, 2023 The Best of Everything
    70 Things Just Keep Happening and Nothing Makes Sense

    Suggested by Lisa Schmeiser: If you liked “The Apartment” or “Mad Men,” welcome back to mid-century NYC office culture. We’re on Madison Avenue, inside the cutthroat world of publishing. Our guides are Hope Lange, Stephen Boyd, Suzy Parker, Martha Hyer, Diane Baker, Brian Ahenre and Miss Joan Crawford. Jean Negulesco handles direction.

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    March 9, 2023 There’s No Business Like Show Business
    69 The Billionaire’s Vaudeville

    Ethel Merman in her heyday. What more do you need to know? Merman didn’t make a lot of movies, so here’s a glimpse at what theatre audiences saw during her long Broadway career. Also along for the Irving Berlin musical are Donald O’Connor, Dan Dailey, Johnnie Ray and Mitzi Gaynor. And, um, who’s that other blonde person? Marilyn Monroe is here, too. Thanks to my panelists, Matthew and David for suggesting it.

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    March 2, 2023 Hangover Square
    68 Laird Cregar Hulks Out

    It’s a dark, moody thriller set in a London square. See Linda Darnell change her image, at the tender age of 22; see Laird Cregar take his shot at being a leading man.

  • Lions, Towers & Shields cover art
    December 29, 2022 An LTS Draft-a-palooza
    67 Gene Kelly’s Butt

    Another year draws to a close, and so many classic movies remain undiscussed on Lions, Towers & Shields. But many of your regular panelists have feelings, as well as recommendations for the future. So I invited them to share them in a themed draft episode.

    NOTE: LTS will return in March 2023. We'll cover at least 21 films next year, but the episodes will be spaced out over three, seven-episode seasons to give our panelists (and your host) time to rest and reflect on all the classic film goodness that awaits.

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    December 14, 2022 Remember the Night
    66 I’m Not Just Your Preston Sturges, I’m Your Indiana

    Barbara Stanwyck and Fred McMurray team up, not to kill for insurance money, but to share a sweet but unlikely holiday road trip. It’s the last movie Preston Sturges wrote before he turned fully to directing. Happy holidays from your friends at Lions, Towers & Shields.

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    December 1, 2022 The Manchurian Candidate
    65 This Is Not Jessica Fletcher

    The John Frankenheimer classic tells you all you need to know about Angela Lansbury’s talent. And it’s a crackerjack political thriller, too.

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    November 17, 2022 The Clock
    64 Justice for Bill

    The Clock is Judy Garland’s first dramatic role. She’s teamed with Robert Walker, who’s a soldier on leave when they meet in New York City. It’s a little bit Affair to Remember, and a little bit On the Town. Really sweet, well-acted romantic film. Directed by Garland’s soon-to-be husband Vincente Minnelli.

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    November 3, 2022 Keeper of the Flame
    63 It’s All About The Last 12 Minutes

    Keeper of the Flame is a drama about the dangers of fascism, set early in WWII and directed by George Cukor, the man who made Gaslight, but was better known for comedies and “women’s” films. Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn star in the far better of their two dramatic pairings. Be warned, we talk about politics, both old and new. And, um, Texas history?

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    October 20, 2022 Dead of Night
    62 Shelly’s Own String of Murders

    Britain’s Ealing Studios is best known for its comedies, including The Ladykillers, The Lavender Hill Mob, and Kind Hearts And Coronets. But this 1945 precursor to those famously funny films deals more with chills than chuckles. Four directors tag-team to adapt a mix of original and classic tales, including one based on a story by H.G. Wells. It’s the rare horror anthology whose framing story is as creepily compelling as its individual tales of terror, building to a memorably hair-raising climax that’ll stick with you through the closing credits and beyond. Come for the golf-induced suicide, stay for the ventriloquist’s dummy.

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    October 6, 2022 Raw Deal
    61 Big Theremin Energy and an Implied Train

    We celebrate the life of Marsha Hunt, who passed away at age 104, last month. She appeared in “Raw Deal” with Dennis O’Keefe and Claire Trevor. It’s a late 40s film noir with wonderful cinematography by John Alton.

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    September 22, 2022 The Best Years of Our Lives
    60 Celebrate the Teresa Wright-aissance

    Director William Wyler’s film tells the stories of three men returning home from World War II and the impact on their lives, their families and their careers. Great performances from Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Myrna Loy and acting newcomer Harold Russell. Lesser-known faves of mine, Gladys George and Cathy O’Donnell are also great to see. Released a year after war’s end, this is the winner of many awards. Wyler served in the war, and I think it shows in the way he made this film.**

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    September 8, 2022 This Gun for Hire
    59 That’s So Raven

    The first Alan Ladd/Veronica Lake pairing is a film noir/thriller about a hit man doing his job and getting even. Alan Ladd’s cat is unbilled. Please also enjoy Laird Cregar, about whom there’s so much to say!

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    August 25, 2022 Kiss Me Kate
    58 He’s Culturing Me

    The film version of Cole Porter’s show, which is based on Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” (got that?) landed in the middle of MGM’s big technicolor musical era, the 1950s. Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson and Ann Miller are your stars, and a very young Bob Fosse is among the standouts in the cast. Movie censors got to Porter’s lyrics, which gives us some fun topics to cover. It’s also your host’s birthday show. Because it’s too darn hot to cover anything else.

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    August 11, 2022 Sweet Smell of Success
    57 Cookie Full of Arsenic

    Burt Lancaster plays a newspaper columnist who is based on Walter Winchell. Winchell was a powerful, vindictive dude, and Lancaster is deliciously evil here, going after the man his sister loves, because he can. Tony Curtis co-stars as a man doing Lancaster’s bidding to advance his own career. The film is based on Ernest Lehman’s novel, and the screenplay was co-written by Clifford Odets. The script is a strong point, as are Lancaster and Curtis’s performances. Enjoy the great jazz score, and get lost in the sleazy world of press agents and corrupt columnists.

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    July 28, 2022 No Man of Her Own
    56 John Lund is also Present

    Barbara Stanwyck is back, and we’ve got her. Here’s a noir melodrama with its share of flaws that I like, regardless. And man, IMDB gives a LOT more plot than I would have. “A pregnant woman adopts the identity of a railroad crash victim and starts a new life with the woman’s wealthy in-laws, but is soon blackmailed by her devious ex.” It’s stylishly directed by Mitchell Leisen, and features lots of familiar character actors. And John Lund is also in it.

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    July 17, 2022 Spellbound
    55 Intense Chemistry with a Block of Wood

    Call it “minor Hitchcock.” Spellbound tells the story of an amnesiac man who can’t remember the murder of which he’s suspected, and the psychiatrist (it’s 1945, so I have to say “lady” psychiatrist) who helps him sort it out. Gregory Peck is early in his film career, and Ingrid Bergman is all, see you later, Charles Boyer. That’s a “Gaslight” joke. Also notable for the Salvador Dali dream sequence.

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    June 30, 2022 Park Row
    54 For the Love of Linotype

    The history of newspapers and typography is this movie’s subject. Director Sam Fuller made this love letter to journalism, and in this episode, we echo that love right back, with the aid of an actual typography historian. Get the movie on YouTube and watch along with us. We’ll count you in!

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    June 16, 2022 Gilda
    53 The Ambiguously Gay Duo

    Put the blame on mame, boys. And also on George McCreedy and Glenn Ford. It’s a love triangle and an erotic noir. But many people just focus on Rita Hayworth’s song and the dress she sang it in. Gilda also features plenty of gay subtext, which we’ll discuss at length, as well as why some films of this era “got away” with gay themes, while others did not. I also believe we’re setting a record for references to past LTS episodes. I’m not mad at that.

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    June 2, 2022 Leave Her to Heaven
    52 If Douglas Sirk Made Friday the 13th

    To paraphrase IMDB, it’s a love story until it’s an obsession story. Then it really gets weird. Gene Tierney is gonna make you kinda mad in this Technicolor, noir thriller. We love it!

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    May 19, 2022 Silk Stockings
    51 The Ninotchka Cinematic Universe

    By the late 1950s, big-budget musicals were in color and wide screen, and MGM made several really great ones. Late-period Cole Porter wrote the songs, and Fred Astaire is paired with a much younger partner (surprise!), Cyd Charisse in this remake of 1939’s Ninotchka - Garbo’s last great film. For extra credit, watch both. Enjoy the comedy stylings of Peter Lorre and his commissars, and the delightful Janice Paige, too.

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    May 5, 2022 Bringing Up Baby
    50 What is She Talking About? Stop That!

    This is episode #50, so it’s special! And Baby is one of my favorite movies of all time. Howard Hawks directs Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and a sweet little kitty! It’s a screwball comedy, and Hepburn as a comedienne is a revelation. If you hate it, you might not want to join, because unlike many other episodes, where I encourage dissent, I will fight you on this one. You should also know that I can quote way too many lines.

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    April 23, 2022 Love Affair/An Affair to Remember
    49 Shut Your Logic Brain Off And Just Go With It

    I love you, but I’ve got to go! Let’s meet in six months at the top of the Empire State Building. In 1939, Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne had a date. In 1957, it was Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. In each movie, something keeps the lovers from meeting up as planned. And though it was a dumb thing (according to me) the movies remain classics of the romance genre.

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    April 14, 2022 The Narrow Margin
    48 He Sounds Like an Angry Garbage Truck

    We enter the gritty world of… Charles McGraw’s voice, in this 1952 noir directed by Richard Fleischer. You may know him from 20,000 Leagues under the Sea and (spoiler alert) Soylent Green is people! In The Narrow Margin, a cop must protect a woman scheduled to testify against a killer. Much of the action takes place on a cross-country train, in which the visual margins are indeed narrow.

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    March 24, 2022 Gaslight
    47 Angela Lansbury, Comin’ In Hot

    Let’s cut to the chase: this film gave birth to the modern term, gaslighting. Charles Boyer needs to drive Ingrid Bergman crazy so he can steal her jewels - a crime he first tried to commit against Ingrid’s aunt, years before. George Cukor takes an unusual turn at dark, noirish storytelling, and Bergman wins an Oscar. Joseph Cotten costars, and Angela Lansbury makes her film debut at age 19.

    Host’s note: Gaslight may be triggering for someone who has experienced an abusive relationship. And that may be surprising information about a black-and-white film from 1944. We encourage you to approach the film itself carefully if depictions of manipulation in relationships might be uncomfortable for you.

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    March 14, 2022 A Letter to Three Wives
    46 A Rough 35

    This choice stems from the enthusiasm of some regular LTS panelists. Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell and Ann Sothern are your stars, along with the unrelated Douglases, Kirk and Paul. A letter written to three women by their “bad friend” pretty much freaks everyone out, and it’s most definitely a female-centered story, well-directed by Joe Mankiewicz. Go figure.

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    February 27, 2022 Pickup on South Street
    45 Donna Reed Can Burn in Hell

    Please enjoy a heaping helping of film noir with a side of anti-Communism. Sam Fuller’s 1953 “Pickup on South Street” is well-directed, and especially well-acted by Thelma Ritter, Richard Widmark and character actor Murvyn Vye - but you can call him Tiger. There’s a crackerjack score, and a reasonably suspenseful plot, too, and the cinematography is inventive and compelling.

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    February 10, 2022 Phantom Lady
    44 It’s All about the Hat

    Who’s that lady? This is what Alan Curtis and Ella Raines need to know. Alan is accused of murdering his wife, but he says he has a perfect alibi - he was spending the evening with a stranger at the time of the murder. Ella is determined to prove his innocence, and goes to great lengths to do so. Franchot Tone is along to help solve the mystery as well. It’s directed by Robert Siodmak and produced by Hitchcock collaborator, Joan Harrison.

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    January 29, 2022 Blonde Venus
    43 Hot Chocolate and Vegetable Soup

    Marlene Dietrich and Cary Grant? No, Marlene Dietrich and Herbert Marshall? Marlene and a cute little kid? Marlene in the Deep South? This movie will surprise you. IT is part of the cycle of films she made with Josef von Sternberg during her early American career. And our heroine goes through A LOT. I’d argue it’s among Dietrich’s most sympathetic roles. In this episode, I find myself arguing with my panelists about the worthiness of this movie!

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    December 22, 2021 I’ll Be Seeing You
    42 A Hot Chocolate of a Movie

    This is Shelly’s current favorite classic holiday movie. It begins just before Christmas and runs New Years, and that totally counts! It’s sweet, it’s a romance and it’s well-acted. It stars Ginger Rogers, Joseph Cotten and a teenaged and bratty Shirley Temple.

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    December 2, 2021 All This and Heaven Too
    41 The Barbara O’Neil Memorial Highway

    Who among the female stars of the 30s and 40s retains more ID today than Bette Davis? She was the queen of the Warner lot when she wasn’t fighting with her bosses, and she played her share of scenery-chewing roles as both a young woman and an older one. But All This and Heaven Too is not one of these. The Davis we meet here is deep in melodrama, certainly, but her performance is controlled and quiet. She loves Charles Boyer, and he loves her, but nothing’s going right for them. Behold, LTS does romance!

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    November 18, 2021 D. O. A.
    40 Red Herring Alley

    We return to film noir, with a movie that could be called, Edmond O’Brien’s really, really bad day. A man learns he’s going to die, and sets out to find out who’s killing him and why. It’s directed by Rudolf Maté, and if you are a fan of noir lighting, camera angles and scenes of LA and San Francisco from the post-war period, you will find them here.

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    November 4, 2021 Lifeboaat
    39 Hitchcock’s Two-Hour Tour

    What happens when an unlikely group of strangers shares an ocean voyage? If it’s the middle of WWII and Alfred Hitchcock is directing, don’t expect a frothy comedy, dah-ling. Do expect raconteur and occasional film actress Tallulah Bankhead, with John Hodiak, Walter Slezak, William Bendix and Hume Cronyn. They’re all stuck on a lifeboat after their merchant ship is torpedoed.

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    October 21, 2021 “The Body Snatcher”
    38 At Least the Cat Survives

    It’s 1830s Edinburgh, home of some of Europe’s finest medical schools — but where are they getting the cadavers to hone their students’ knowledge of anatomy? Well, provided you’ve got ready cash on hand, and you don’t ask too many questions… Horror auteur Val Lewton and still-rookie director Robert Wise adapt Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story with typically eerie elegance — but you’ll come away remembering Boris Karloff, in maybe the greatest performance of his career, as a deceptively cheerful cabman with a grisly side hustle. A much-diminished Bela Lugosi’s also in it, barely — but the key scene he shares with Karloff will stick with you long after you’ve seen this relatively little-known and underrated classic.

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    October 11, 2021 “Night Nurse”
    37 House of Mean Gables

    Ride with Barbara Stanwyck in an ambulance that’s on a collision course with decadent mayhem. Stanwyck gets a job as a nurse, eventually assigned to care for the children of a neglectful mom. She’s neglectful because she’s drunk and under the influence of a sadistic Clark Gable. And oh look, Joan Blondell is in this one, too. Directed by “Wild” Bill Wellman. The film is among the first rank of early 30s precodes.

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    September 23, 2021 Take a Trip Down “Nightmare Alley”
    36 Frauds and Geeks

    Pretty actor Tyrone Power comes back from WWII and wants to play more serious part. So here he is as a carnival worker who rises through like as an increasingly successful con man. Until he doesn’t. Great noir visuals and wonderful performances by the underseen Helen Walker, and the can’t-be-overseen Joan Blondell.

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    September 9, 2021 Everybody Luvs “Laura”
    35 Aspirational Spaces

    All this fuss over one lady in a painting. Laura! Loads of men want her, she has a song that’s quite memorable, and everyone in this movie talks about her constantly. Otto Preminger directs Gene Tierney, Vincent Price, Dana Andrews, and Clifton Webb. It’s a great cast, and the film comes just as we’re entering the film noir era. But it’s far too pretty to be noir.

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    August 26, 2021 The Public Enemy
    34 I’m Sorry. I’ll Stop Talking about Joan Blondell.

    James Cagney became a star, Mae Clark took a grapefruit to the face and Jean Harlow made an impression. It’s an early “talkie” by William Wellman that’s both a blueprint for what would come later, and a uniquely brutal take on the gangster genre.

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    July 31, 2021 The Apartment
    33 Nice Guy, or Good Man?

    Here’s a Billy Wilder master class that some people call one of the greatest comedies ever - “The Apartment.” We’ll see about that! It was among the inspirations for “Mad Men,” so there’s that, too. Jack Lemon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred McMurray are your leads. Welcome to the swinging’ 60s, businessman style.

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    July 17, 2021 The Philadelphia Story
    32 Filmed on Satin

    It’s the best-loved of the four movies Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant made together, and the one that also stars Jimmy Steward. Another George Cukor production, this was Hepburn’s triumphant entry into MGM, and her middle finger to the “box office poison” label of the late 1930s. “Hullo, George!”

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    July 1, 2021 “The Women”
    31 The Patriarchy: You’re Swimming In It

    Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard and a stellar cast of supporting actresses are just doing the best they can, moving through their upper-class New York world.

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    June 17, 2021 Huston’s “Treasure of the Sierra Madre”
    30 There are No Tigers in Mexico

    Bogart, Huston and Holt go hunting for gold in Mexico, and they find it. But it’s unlikely they’ll get to keep it. John Huston’s 1947 “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” includes some of the best performances of the three lead actors’ careers, and a lot of visual flourishes, social commentary and a giant blob of irony.

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    May 30, 2021 Bad Day at Black Rock
    29 Lee Marvin is Evil Ted Lasso

    John Sturges’ “Bad Day at Black Rock” takes place soon after World War II, but it feels like something out of the Old West. You could also call it “daylight noir.” Spencer Tracy faces off against Robert Ryan, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine and a whole bunch of townspeople with something to hide. We talk about filmmaking techniques, performance and how a one-armed dude survives his 24 hours in Black Rock.

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    May 9, 2021 The Joy of Foreign Correspondent
    28 Hitchcock Tilts at Windmills

    Or. What if Santa Claus Pushed You off a Tower?

    One of Alfred Hitchcock’s earliest American films is among the most enjoyable to watch. Joel McCrea is the reporter of the title, off to find out what’s happening in Europe for the benefit of a prewar American audience. Spies, murder and amazing character actors abound, along with some extraordinary Hitchcock set pieces.

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    April 11, 2021 A Walk Down the “Primrose Path”
    27 That Time Joel McCrea was a Total Jerk

    The usually affable Joel McCrea is sort of the hero, but not exactly lovable. And Ginger Rogers may have done everything Fred Astaire did “backwards and in heels” but here, she is not living her best life. “Primrose Path” takes an unrelenting look at a dysfunctional family. It was unusual for its time, and gives the two leads a lot to do.

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    March 25, 2021 The Third Man Again
    26 You Were Made to be Murdered

    Hark! Is that the sound of a zither? Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949) stars Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten, not necessarily in order of screentime, it’s a post-war noir classic, set in Vienna, with compelling photography, plot and performances. This episode is also The Incomparable’s second look at this film.

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    March 13, 2021 Perry Mason *Is “The Mind Reader”
    25 Warren William: Cookie Monster

    He’s largely unknown today, but Warren William had an important role in what we know today as pre-code film. Sadly, many of his films are neither streaming or rentable. but we did find one that shows off his seedy side. If you’d like more recommendations, listen in. William usually played a dapper, middle-aged villain with a taste for much younger women, and a line that would get him what he wanted. As we say in this episode, think William Powell, but sinister. After his pre-code days, William played Perry Mason in several films, as well as a detective called the Lone Wolf.

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    February 16, 2021 A Random Harvest of Memories
    24 Mistimed Sobs

    We go full-on romance classic with Random Harvest (1942), starring the luminous Greer Garson and the handsome and very English Ronald Colman (she’s Irish.) It’s a golden age, big studio production, and it’s great. There’s love, there’s war (or the aftermath of war), there’s loss of memory… I’ve said too much already. I unreservedly love this one, and not for any knowing precode touches or hard-boiled characters. I love it because Garson and Colman are great together and it made me cry and stuff.

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    January 30, 2021 The Fountainhead: a hate watch
    23 A Perfect Spherical Cow

    Let us consider 1949’s The Fountainhead, the first filmed version of an Ayn Rand novel, though it’s not the first time Rand’s words were spoken onscreen. She worked as a writer in Hollywood while nursing her brew of objectivist beliefs and turning them into some, um, interesting books. Our film stars Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, and is based on Rand’s novel of the same name. So, how do we feel about all this? Listen and find out!

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    January 14, 2021 Detour
    22 Come for the Aubrey Plaza Energy, Stay for the Tom Neal Back Story

    Edgar G. Ulmer’s “Detour” is both a low-budget B movie, and one of the most influential and elemental examples of America’s film noir. Its stars were largely unknown, and it was released by a poverty row studio. It’s also a great film - one that was “rediscovered” by film nerds and preservationists in recent years, and has now been restored and given a Crierion release. What’s all the fuss? We’re gonna find out?

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    January 3, 2021 Ball of Fire
    21 Yum Yum and the Nerd

    It’s “Ball of Fire.” Howard Hawks directs; Billy Wilder writes. And Barbara Stanwyck is Sugarpuss O’Shea, who hides out from the cops with a group of dotty professors working on a new encyclopedia. Gary Cooper is in it too, along with S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, Richard Haydn and many more. It’s a comedy classic. Even so, we manage to drop many many hot takes.

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    December 3, 2020 “Christmas in Connecticut:” the Original
    20 Merry Christmas. Don’t Mention It!

    By popular demand among both members and panelists actual and potential, we explore this 1945 classic. Peter Godfrey (who?) directs Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan and a cast of delightful character actors in a holiday story about covering up lies with more lies on a farm in Connecticut on Christmas Eve. Holiday food and sleigh rides aplenty.

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    November 9, 2020 Fred and Ginger dance cheek to cheek in “Top Hat”
    19 Horton-ing and Blore-ing It Up

    Believed by many to be the best of the Astaire-Rogers musicals, “Top Hat” was also the most successful. It arrived in the middle of their run as an on-screen couple. It’s both a musical and a screwball comedy with songs by Irving Berlin. It also features a stellar supporting cast: Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick, Eric Blore and, wait, is that Lucile Ball?

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    October 26, 2020 The Black Cat
    18 Rocky Horror Picture Show without the Sex

    LTS acknowledges the pumpkin-spiced holiday.

    From IMDB: “American honeymooners in Hungary become trapped in the home of a Satan-worshiping priest when the bride is taken there for medical help following a road accident.”

    From Shelly: “Oh, I forgot this was an Edgar G. Ulmer joint.”

    Universal horror’s big guns are firing in this old dark house story where the ODC is actually a modernist masterpiece, built atop a former fortress. Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and a cast of less interesting people populate this amazing film.

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    October 11, 2020 Ace in the Hole
    17 Kirk Douglas, MOVIE STAR!

    It’s cynical, it’s Billy Wilder, and it’s still relevant. On-the-skids newspaper man Kirk Douglas is gonna do ANYTHING to get that story. This movie came up during the very first Lions, Towers & Shields episode as one that several panelists would watch again. And here they are!

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    September 25, 2020 Hot Saturday
    16 Does Cary Grant Ever Break a Sweat?

    In an early starring role, Cary Grant upends the sensibilities of a small town that’s rife with gossip and hypocrisy. And we have expert help this week, because the panel includes a man who’s created an audio documentary about Grant.

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    September 10, 2020 We watch “Too Late for Tears.”
    15 I Know You’re a Sexist Creep, But Run!

    Here’s a delicious little film noir, where greed is breathtaking, and you’ll wonder who’s the evilest - until you know for sure.

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    August 26, 2020 Considering Judy Garland’s A Star is Born
    14 No One Told Me It’s Three Hours Long

    This is the film that should have won Judy Garland the Oscar. It was both her greatest triumph, and a comeback film. It’s directed by George Cukor, the “woman’s director” of so many female-centered studio films. There’s a whole book about the making of “A Star is Born,” in fact. Also, this is the three-hour one.

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    August 13, 2020 Virtual Vacation: Two for the Road
    13 They’re Pretty in All the Timelines

    Welcome to another crossover where I join the Agents of S.M.O.O.C.H. for a timey-whimey road trip for our Virtual Vacation series. Our agents tease apart the five(?) timelines in Two for the Road (1967), starring Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney using the cars the characters drive. Join us as we criss-cross through ten years of time and space while road-tripping through France towards the Mediterranean coast. Sometimes it’s smooth sailing, sometimes it’s rocky, sometimes there are too many people in the car. Make sure you pack the sunscreen.

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    August 2, 2020 Sullivan’s Travels: Class Tourism, with a Little Sex
    12 Chekhov’s ID Card

    Preston Sturgess was in top form in 1941 for this comedy starring Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake - in one of her first films. McCrea is a movie director, looking for a way to make a “socially relevant” film, instead of the comedies he’s been making. McCrea travels as a hobo, trying to “know trouble” in a way he can’t while living his life as a Hollywood director. Like Orson Welles, Sturges used a stock company of character actors, and many of them are along for the ride.

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    July 3, 2020 We could all use a Roman Holiday
    11 Princess Anna’s Day Off

    We offer you a summer movie set in Rome. Directed by William Wyler, and starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, Roman Holiday tells the story of an American newspaper reporter who meets a princess and liberates her from the confinement of her royal station for a romantic adventure in 1950s Rome for a classic royal and the commoner tale. The people and the scenery are beautiful, and the actors have lovely chemistry. The is among the earliest, and best of the 1950s-60s films that took Americans to a Europe that had finally begun recovering from the horrors of World War II.

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    June 22, 2020 The Roaring Twenties
    10 The Nicest Gangster Ever

    James Cagney is a bootlegger. This is the story of his rise and fall. Warner Brothers had been producing gangster yarns since the early 30s, many featuring Cagney. But late ’30s filmmaking had become better and more watchable, with studio stalwarts like Cagney, Bogart and Frank McHugh now pros at the genre. Add in the wonderful and underrated Gladys George, and you’ve got yourself a movie! Raoul Walsh, whose career went back to silents, and who would later direct Cagney in “White Heat,” directed. “The Roaring Twenties” is part social commentary, crime movie and melodrama. And it’s one of the most entertaining movies of this genre.

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    June 7, 2020 Mildred Pierce
    9 A Numerical Scale of Trash Men

    Here’s the film, based on James M. Cain’s story, that won Joan Crawford an Oscar, and began the Warner Brothers phase of her career, after MGM sent her packing. It tells the story of Mildred, who begins a new life when her marriage ends by building a restaurant empire. But her selfish daughter (Ann Blyth) and her lover (Zachary Scott) don’t make things easy for the proprietor of Mildred’s Fatburger. Bonus? Film noir with a female protagonist.

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    May 24, 2020 We recap My Man Godfrey (1935)
    8 Cornelia is Trash. Or She’s Not!

    Screwball comedy and Depression-era inequity meet in “My Man Godfrey” (1935). William Powell is experiencing the Depression first-hand, from under a bridge, when a society swell arrives and offers him a few dollars to help her win a scavenger hunt. Before you know it, Powell is buttling in the house of a dysfunctional wealthy family. Hilarity, and the politics of class follow. Carole Lombard, William Powell, Alice Brady and Gail Patrick are all marvelous, as is the rest of the supporting cast. “My Man Godfrey” was nominated for six Oscars, including the first two supporting actor statues ever awarded, but won none.

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    May 9, 2020 Border Incident
    7 Enjoy Your Cucumber, America!

    Action, adventure and noir at the border, with Ricardo Montalban, before he went into space.

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    April 26, 2020 The Invisible Man
    6 We’ll Begin with a Reign of Terror

    We’re watching James Whale’s “The Invisible Man.”

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    April 11, 2020 We recap and review the 1947 mystery, Lured.
    5 I Love Dead Lucy

    What do you get when you combine a director of 50s melodrama, a screwball TV comedian, a deliciously flamboyant cad, and a bunch of great character actors from Britain and America? Why, a British Jack the Ripper mystery, of course. On this episode, we’re talking about 1947’s “Lured,” directed by Douglas Sirk, and starring Lucile Ball and George Sanders. We will spoil the ending in this episode, like we do, so watch the movie, probably for free, before you listen.

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    March 29, 2020 We draft the classics in a time of isolation.
    4 What to Watch Now

    Classic films, by definition, are comfort food, or at least, they’re escapist entertainment. Our panel picks films they love, and want to watch right now, as we confront a lot of time indoors during the coronavirus pandemic.

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    March 15, 2020 Baby Face
    3 More Permy Over Time

    Lily has had a rough life. Her father has basically been pimping her out, and she's had it! She and her friend Chico, who happens to be a black woman, take off for New York so Lily soon begins climbing the corporate ladder, using each corporate executive s weakness to obtain what she wants. Because that's how Nietzsche would want her to do it. "Baby Face" is a quintessential pre-code movie. And it had a lot to do with the code being enforced a few months aster its release.

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    February 27, 2020 We review George Cukor’s 1938 film, Holiday.
    2 Ride Her Down Like a Rabbit

    Come with us to late 1930s New York. It's the Depression, but you wouldn't know it here on Fifth Avenue, where the Setons live, and where things would be even better - if we had the right kind of government. We're discussing the 1938 film, Holiday, directed by George Cukor, and staring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. There's a bit of old movie news, too. Just a bit.

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    February 16, 2020 We review Robert Wise’s 1949 masterpiece, “The Set-Up.”
    1 Paradise City

    We begin a journey into the past, for the love of classic Hollywood-era movies. We've got memories of Kirk Douglas, Blu-Ray news, and a recap and review of Robert Wise's 1949 masterpiece, "The Set-Up."