7th Cavalry

Talkie of the Week: 7th Cavalry

USA 1956, 75 minutes, technicolor, Columbia Pictures. Director: Joseph H. Lewis, Written by Peter Packer, Based on the story “A Horse for Mrs. Custer” by Glendon Swarthout. Cast: Randolph Scott, Barbara Hale, Jay C. Flippen, Frank Faylen, Jeanette Nolan, Leo Gordon, Denver Pyle, Harry Carey Jr., Michael Pate, Donald Curtis, Frank Wilcox, Pat Hogan, Russell Hicks, Peter Ortiz.

Plot summary: After Custer’s defeat at Little Big Horn, Captain Benson returns to Indian territory to bring back the bodies and atone for his absence from the doomed battle.

7th Cavalry posterReview: When Tom Benson returns to Fort Lincoln, he learns about General Custer’s defeat at Little Big Horn. The Captain himself was absent from the crucial battle in Indian territory. With Custer’s permission, he accompanied his young bride Martha Kellogg on her journey to their new home. Accused of cowardice and misguided loyalty to his mentor Custer now fallen from grace, Captain Benson volunteers to retrieve the bodies of his fellow men. With a group of unlikely heroes, he returns to what the victorious Sioux consider sacred ground to execute the President’s orders to give the fallen soldiers a decent burial.

7th Cavalry, like many Westerns, is a story based on historical facts but not faithfully so. Adapted from a story by Glendon Swarthout, the film depicts the aftermath of the Battle of Little Big Horn without focusing on General Custer. Although an absentee main character, Custer only serves as a background figure to introduce the film’s actual hero, Captain Tom Benson. Played by Randolph Scott, Benson is the outcast survivor of a battle he didn’t attend but cannot escape. As a soldier, he doesn’t only have to cope with the the loss of his company but also with the downfall of his fallen superior, a man whom he has admired for his decency and expertise. Confronted with mistrust and criticism by a military Board of Inquiry led by the father of his wife-to-be, Benson masters the art of walking the fine line of duty and allegiance, convincingly stressed in Scott’s performance. Supported by a gracefully devoted Barbara Hale as Martha Kellogg, the actor led a decent ensemble in a film that captivates with words rather than action. Calm and slow paced, 7th Cavalry is not a John Wayne Western, nor a movie for an impatient crowd. It is a movie with a charm of its own, made for an audience who doesn’t mind following a wide array of dialog until the hero finally takes off to follow his destiny.

Beautifully cast and shot in Mexico, the film offers a look back at a time when films were not yet dominated by special effects and CGI. Although lengthy and verbose for some, 7th Cavalry has its definite perks for anyone who’s fond of a quieter performance style and demure storyline. Blessed with the talents of Western veteran Randolph Scott, as well as Barbara Hale’s often underestimated naturalness and warmth, the film deserves to be preserved for an audience who appreciates uncelebrated classics and their place in film history.

Get a glimpse of 7th Cavalry here.

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Please Murder Me

Talkie of the Week: Please Murder Me

USA 1956, 78 minutes, black & white, Distributors Corporation America. Director: Peter Godfrey, Written by David T. Chantler, Ewald André Dupont, Donald Hyde and Al C. Ward. Cast: Raymond Burr, Angela Lansbury, Dick Foran, John Dehner, Lamont Johnson, Robert Griffin, Denver Pyle, Alex Sharp, Lee Miller, Russell Thorson

Plot summary: Attorney Craig Carlson falls in love with his best friend’s wife and asks for his approval to marry her. When his friend is found dead a week later, his widow is accused of murder and Craig defends her only to discover her darkest secrets.

Review: In Please Murder Me, Raymond Burr was cast as attorney Craig Carlson who falls in love with Myra Leeds, his best friend’s wife, played by Angela Lansbury. That was in 1956, the same year he started working on the Perry Mason pilot before she show went on the air on CBS to be a great success from 1957 – 66. The movie was Raymond Burr’s test run as a successful lawyer and a way for him to prove his leading qualities. A supporting actor since 1946, he finally got the break he deserved and made the best of it. Always immersing himself in his parts, Raymond Burr brought a lot of ruthless energy to his performance and built up a beautiful chemistry with his female co-star.

Angela Lansbury, a Hollywood veteran since 1944, brought an eerie quality to her performance, creating suspense and sizzling moments with Raymond Burr. As character actors, they both took the plot and made the best of it by adding depth to this emotional drama.

As a “typical” film noir, it is hard to summarize the plot without giving too much away. It is safe to say however that this film won’t leave you untouched. Thanks to the profound talent and expressiveness of its two leads, the film takes the step from diverting to excellent. Angela Lansbury and Raymond Burr aside, Please Murder Me was blessed with a decent cast of actors who breathed life into their characters and made the story believable. The perfect film for this moody April weather and a rainy Sunday night.

Available on DVD and online.

The Doris Day Show

TV classics: The Doris Day Show

USA 1968-73, 5 seasons,  128 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, CBS, color. Created by: James Fritzell. Cast: Doris Day, Denver Pyle, McLean Stevenson, Rose Marie, John Dehner, Jackie Joseph, Phillip Brown, Tod Starke, James Hampton, Paul Smith, Fran Ryan, Bernie Kopell, Naomi Stevens, Kaye Ballar, Peter Lawford, Patrick O’Neal, Billy DeWolfe

Plot summary: Doris Martin is a widowed mother who raises her sons on the family ranch until she moves to San Francisco to become a working girl.

Review: The Doris Day Show was on the air for five seasons and had many distinct format changes, it is thus a little tricky to review. It’s probably safe to say however that die-hard fans of the show’s leading lady have embraced the program for what it mostly was: a vehicle for Doris Day to entertain her audience on the small screen.

In spite of her rather steady success and the network’s interest in keeping the The Doris Day Show on the air for another season, Ms. Day herself decided to cancel the show as both, the main attraction and executive producer of the show. She had been signed on for a five year run and decided to resign from acting altogether as the show ended in the spring of 1973.

The show was not, like many others of its era, revisited in perpetual reruns but was released on DVD with a variety of extras. It is thus available for a new generation of Doris Day enthusiasts who have been unfamiliar with the final acting endeavor of their favorite star. Lifelong fans of Doris Day’s work may also enjoy revisiting the ever-changing world of Doris Martin, from a widowed mother to a single city girl.

All in all, The Doris Day Show benefits from Doris Day’s movie stardom and musical fame. The theme song Que Sera already puts you in the mood for some good-natured entertainment and reminds you of Ms. Day’s many big screen hits. It was my main reason to have a closer look at the program and I haven’t regretted looking for it. It may not have made it on my top ten list but it’s still an enjoyable show for everyone who appreciates those comedy programs from the late 60s  when a certain kind of innocence still prevailed and was backed by an approving audience.

The Doris Day Show pilot episode

The Doris Day Show: “Doris’ House Guest” (season 4)