Amy prepares to go on stage

Josef von Sternberg was the sort of man who loved it when a plan came together, and in 1930’s Morocco his master strategy paid off. The plan: having found himself shipped to Berlin by Paramount after a string of Hollywood failures, Von Sternberg decided to find a star there, groom her, and then use her to buy his ticket back to the big time. The star was Marlene Dietrich and even before The Blue Angel, Von Sternberg and Dietrich’s first film together, had been released in the USA, he was back in America using it to tout for business. Summoned by telegram, Dietrich followed him and by the time she arrived Morocco was … Read more

Roxie Hart

Billy Flynn and Roxie Hart in court

An A team of acting and technical talent bring their A game to Roxie Hart, the tale of an innocent woman who pleads guilty to a murder in the hope that it’ll further her stage career. The law as an extension of showbusiness, the corrupting effect of the media, never mind the 21st century, this was made in 1942, and retells the true story of murderous Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner, who were renamed Roxie and Velma by journalist Maurine Dallas Watkins when she decided to turn some wildly successful newspaper reporting into a 1926 stage play called Chicago. And that’s the way Roxie and Velma remained, as the play became first a … Read more

The Tall Target

Adolphe Menjou and Dick Powell (centre of pic)

A director on his way up meets a star on his way down in The Tall Target, a 1951 B movie about a plot to assassinate president-elect Abraham Lincoln in 1861, the year the American Civil War broke out. Anthony Mann directs, one year on from his breakthrough into the big time with the western Winchester ’73, and Dick Powell stars as the New York cop who’s uncovered the plot and is finding the world reluctant to hear him out. Bizarrely, the cop is called John Kennedy, and the plot consists of shooting the president from an upstairs window using a rifle with a telescopic sight. Work that into one of the many … Read more

100 Years of… The Three Musketeers

The musketeers and D'Artagnan join swords

You’d have thought that the silent The Three Musketeers from 1921 would be the first film adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’s novel but it wasn’t. Depending on how you count these things it was around the seventh or eighth film version since 1903. It wasn’t even the first of 1921. That honour went to a French serial shot in 14 episodes, Les Trois Mousketaires. But this one, directed by Fred Niblo and starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr, eclipses all the forerunners and most of the successors, largely thanks to the presence of Fairbanks, cusping 40 when he made this but leaping around and larger than life from the moment he hits the screen. This happens … Read more