Bad Sister: Bogart And Bette Davis Together For The First Time

I recently watched the movie Bad Sister and I must say that I really enjoyed this film. At sixty eight minutes it is short and sweet. Released in 1931, it is Humphrey Bogart’s fouth film and Bette Davis’ film debut.

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The film is basically a light drama, with some added touches of comedy. The story revolves around the Madison family and their four children. Sidney Fox, as Marianne Madison, plays the title role. I guess that would make Bette Davis’ Laura Madison the Good Sister. Humphrey Bogart is fantastic as Valentine Corliss, in a supporting role. He arrives into their small town and forever changes their lives.

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For me it was great to see a young Humphrey Bogart, before he was a major star. He was just a young, good looking actor slowly climbing the ladder of success in Hollywood. Here in just his fourth film he is already a polished actor. It interesting that he is given fourth billing, below Bette Davis and Sidney Fox. Both actresses making their film debut. Bette Davis, here in her early 20’s, is solid in her role. One can detect her acting ability. However the shy, passive character that she portrays only allows for a small range of emotions.

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The whole cast is very enjoyable. Special mention should be given to ZaSu Pitts as Minnie the family maid and child actor David Durand as Hedrick, the youngest Madison sibling. Pitts is quite funny as the crabby, cantankerous maid. Durand, as Hedrick, has some funny moments. But at times his character borders on being one of the most annoying children that I have ever seen in a movie.

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Bad Sister is not a Humphrey Bogart movie, he is clearly a supporting character. He has more screen time  than I expected and he makes the most of every minute. Nor is it a Bette Davis movie. She has decent screen time, but this is really Sidney Fox’s movie. Fox has second billing but she is clearly the star of the movie.

It is very surprising that this film has not been released on DVD or Blu-ray in America. It features two of the biggest stars of old time Hollywood together early in their career. As a fan of both actors this movie did not disappoint. Including Bad Sister, Bogart and Davis appeared in six films together. The other films are Three On A Match (1932), The Petrified Forest (1936), Marked Women (1937), Kid Galahad (1937) and Dark Victory (1939). I do hope that someday soon Bad Sister will get a proper release.

Song Spotlight: My Melancholy Blues By Queen

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My Melancholy Blues is the last song on Queen’s outstanding sixth album, News Of The World, released in 1977. One of the amazing attributes of Queen throughout their career was the diversity of musical styles contained within each of their albums. This was especially true of the band in the 1970’s. The News Of The World album was no exception, it contains an operatic piano rocker, punk inspired hard rock, Led Zeppelin like instrumental freak outs, jazz, bluesy rock, an acoustic ballad, piano ballads and hard rock.

My Melancholy Blues is a stripped back, jazz influenced track that features just piano, bass and very light drums. Listening to the song, one could picture Freddie Mercury, John Deacon and Roger Taylor playing it in a dimly lit, smoke filled lounge.

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The song highlights Freddie Mercury’s versatility and subtlety as a vocalist. He delivers a dramatic,  yet mellow, vocal that is understated and over the top at the same time. Absent from the song are any guitar orchestrations, booming bass lines or loud drums.  Also absent are the typically over the top, multi tracked vocals. This is just Freddie’s vocals, pure, simple and brilliant.

The track also displays Freddie Mercury’s overlooked brilliance on the piano. Beginning with just the flourish of jazzy notes and then chords, the onset of the song is just piano and vocals. As much as I love Brian May ‘s guitar playing, he is not missed on this track. Everything that needs to be here is present musically. At three minutes and twenty nine seconds it is not a long song, Freddie says what he needs to and then the band plays to the fade out. I wish that Queen would have recorded more tracks akin to this one.

When the band re-recorded the track for the BBC  Brian May added some very tasty and understated guitar lines that do enhance the slightly faster and louder feel of the new version. Also on this version is a brilliant moment from Freddie. Towards the end of the song instead of finishing the last lyric something apparently made him laugh. That laugh, for me, is one of Freddie’s best moments to be captured on tape. It’s  a spontaneous and magical moment. One might even say that it is a kind of magic.

Troy T.

Iona, A Prog Band Worth Exploring

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Iona are one of my favorite progressive rock bands. But to merely call them progressive rock does not do their music justice. The band skillfully combines the sounds of prog, jazz, new age, Celtic, folk and world music to create their unique take on progressive rock. With a career spanning twenty six years and eleven albums there is a lot of good music to take in. Their entire catalog is worthwhile listening for those looking for music beyond the norm.

Unfortunately Iona recently announced that the group was disbanding. They have left the door open for possible future projects, however Iona as a band is over. They do leave behind a fantastic discography that includes seven studio albums and four incredible live albums.

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I believe that Iona are a progressive rock band worth exploring. Trying to describe their music with words is not an easy thing. I have included a few examples of their music, but these songs only scratch the surface. It is my hope that some will like what they hear from this excellent band and explore their music further.

Troy T.

Dr. Jones, Meet Han Solo

Occasionally I come across artwork or a photograph so good that I just have to share it.  This great illustration featuring Indiana Jones and Han Solo is one that I felt compelled  to share.

Raiders Of The Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back are two of my favorite movies.  Harrison Ford is one of my favorite actors.  I am also a big fan of movies and art so everything about this illustration is a win for me.

There are other images on the internet depicting Indiana Jones and Han Solo together, but this one is by far my favorite.  A great deal of thought went into this concept. There are so many fantastic illustrations available depicting scenes from movies, or portraits of movie characters. I can really appreciate an artist who digs deep into their imagination to create a truly unique image based on beloved movie characters.  This well crafted illustration was created by artist Terry Peppers.

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Troy T.

Song Spotlight: Stryper’s Pride

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For the last month the song Pride, by Stryper, has been at the forefront of my mind. I can not get enough of this song. The song is featured on Stryper’s most recent album Fallen, which was released in late 2015. One could strongly argue that Fallen  is Stryper’s best album. It is by far the band’s heaviest album.

Pride showcases Stryper’s brand of melodic riff based metal. The track has a bit of an 80’s vibe, but the sound is throughly modern. On display is the nimble dual guitar work of Michael Sweet and Ox Fox, solid drumming from Robert Sweet and bassist Tim Gaines holding down the bottom end. Michael Sweet really shines here singing with so much passion and power.

Michael Sweet will turn 54 this year. He may not be able to hit all of the extreme high notes with ease anymore, but he can still sing his head off. His vocals on the song Pride, especially the chorus, are out of this world.

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Currently there are quite a few singers from the 1980’s metal scene struggling vocally, especially in concert settings. This is far from the case with Michael Sweet, as a song like Pride can attest. Somewhere in his mid forties Sweet found a new gear vocally. Over the last twelve years, starting with the Reborn album in 2005, he has recorded some of his absolute best vocals. It is amazing how powerful and aggressive his vocals have been, especially on the last two Stryper albums.

Pride is a song that features a band that is locked in. All four band members are playing for the song, leaving room for little licks, tricks and drum fills throughout. That solid foundation creates a launching pad for Michael Sweet to reach the stratosphere during the chorus when he screams “Priiiiiiiiiiiide!!!!”  Just when you think it can’t get any better he takes it to the next level vocally after the guitar solos. He really delivers some soaring vocals as he sustains the screams even longer during the final choruses.

As I said I really can not get enough of the song Pride at this time. I have had the Fallen album in constant rotation. But for now Pride is the track that I am really locked on to. Crank it up and play it loud!

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Troy T.

Why I Have Not Watched Humphrey Bogart’s Last Movie

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I consider myself to be a huge fan of Humphrey Bogart’s movies. Of the seventy plus movies that he appeared in I have watched all but six of them. I own quite a few of his movies as well, including The Harder They Fall, his last movie. I must confess that there is a part of me that refuses to watch The Harder They Fall. I have owned the DVD for a few years now. I was fortunate to have found the DVD at a great price online.  But it remains in it’s case waiting to be watched.

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My initial intentions were that I would view The Harder They Fall once I had seen all of Bogart’s previous films. On the surface this was not an unrealistic goal since I had seen the majority of his movies at that point. However I ran into a bit of a problem. Some of his earliest movies are not available on DVD. In many of these movies Bogart  had third, fourth  or fifth billing.  This was not an issue for me, I wanted to view the films and see his evolution as an actor. Over time I realized that this quest may not come to a completion. I watched as many of his movies as I could, with the intention of one day watching The Harder They Fall.

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A few years have passed and I have yet to watch his last film. You might ask why.  Well it’s a bit silly. Part of me feels that if I watch The Harder They Fall then it will be over. I know that Humphrey Bogart  died in 1957, so his career has been done for a long time. So what exactly will be over? I suppose it’s the thrill of discovering and viewing his filmography, that will be over. Although I regularly re-watch many of his films, once I watch The Harder They Fall there will not be any unseen movies starring Humphrey Bogart for me to discover. It all sounds a bit silly, but I’m being honest.  In those very early films he was just a costar or a supporting player.  He may appear in the movies but they are not Humphrey Bogart movies.

I will watch The Harder They Fall one day, I would say that it is well overdue. The other films that he costarred in that I have not seen are Up The River, A Devil With Women, Body And Soul , Bad Sister (Bette Davis’ debut movie) and A Holy Terror.  Hopefully one day I can complete my quest of watching Bogart’s entire filmography.  It would be fantastic if a company  released them all in a DVD collection, The Unseen Bogart Films. For now at the start of the new year perhaps I should resolve to watch The Harder They Fall in 2017.

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Troy T.

 

Happy New Year And Thank You

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I just wanted to say thank you too all that have read and followed this blog.  2016 was quite a year, one for the history books.  Years from now when people talk about the various news stories and events of this past year I can say that I was there.

Personally it was a year of challenges and much change.  This blog was one of the constants in my life throughout the year.  I started this blogging journey a little over a year ago with a post about Phil Collins.  At the onset I was very excited, but a bit fearful as well.  I had a few ideas, but would anyone care about the things that I wanted to write about? Once those few ideas were done could I keep this thing going?

It’s been a year plus and so far I have been able to publish 80 blog posts. I must say that I am extremely grateful for everyone who have supported this blog.  And I am humbled and amazed at the response to the blog’s most viewed post, Genesis 2016: The Outline Remains.  It was posted in October 2016 and is far and away the most popular post over the last year.  A big thank you to all of the Genesis fans out there.  The post that I am most proud of is Five Great Albums Influenced By Queen, published earlier this month.  A lot of passion, time and revision went into that post.  I am so very pleased with the responsible.

Once again thank you all for taking the time to read this blog, it has been a wonderful creative outlet.  My original vision for this blog was to share my thoughts on the things in life of interest to me. Music, movies, television, books, art, life and occasionally politics. The latter topic I tend to stay away from and leave to the experts. I look forward to continuing this journey and sharing more in 2017. Happy New Year and God bless.

Troy T.