November 25, 2008:
November 25, 2008:
I'm back from two weeks in Italy and ten days of more-intensive-than-usual catching up. Getting back up to speed has been complicated by an attack of the widespread blogger disease that takes the form of a question—why am I spending so much time on this stuff?—and manifests itself in yawning gaps between posts. But that disease seems to be in remission, at least for a while. I hope to put up posts on Dave Hilberman's FBI file and Bolt and Madagascar 2, among other things, any day now.
I did nothing and saw nothing in Italy remotely comics- or animation-related, but to fill that gap here's a photo of Walt, Lillian, and Sharon Disney in Venice, in 1951; to judge from the luggage, they're on their way to or from a hotel (a trip that these days is more often made by motorized vaporetto, or waterbus). I didn't get to Venice on my last trip, and I chose not to ride in a gondola when I did go there ten years ago, but Walt makes it look like fun. Lilly, on the other hand, appears to have caught a whiff of the canals' notorious aroma. I wonder what has happened to the photos Walt took with that camera in his lap.
If you watch the Turner Classic Movies cable channel (and you should), you're probably aware of the four Sunday evenings of "family classics" coming up in December. All twenty-five "classics" are Disney live-action movies; you can see the complete schedule here.
Movies made during Walt Disney's lifetime make up only a small part of the schedule, unfortunately, and they're concentrated on the first Sunday, December 7, starting at noon EST with Treasure Island (1950), Walt's first all-live-action feature and for my money one of his best, with a great cast of British character actors. It'll befollowed by Swiss Family Robinson (1960) and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), both worth watching, Swiss Family especially. From there it's pretty much downhill, although Hayley Mills's performance in Pollyanna (1960) is astonishing.
Three of Walt's dreary black-and-white comedies with Fred MacMurray are scattered across the following three Sundays, but otherwise the films on those days come from the post-Walt '70s and '80s. I've seen enough of those later films to extinguish my interest in seeing any more of them, but if you can't get enough of Herbie the Love Bug, you're in luck.
Regrettably, the schedule does not include Third Man on the Mountain (1959), a remarkably good film directed by Ken Annakin, Neither does it include The Story of Robin Hood (1952) or The Sword and the Rose (1953), both made in England, both directed by Annakin, and both worth seeing, if only to enjoy his skill with the actors. Those two films—and Rob Roy (1954), the fourth and last of Walt's British productions of the early 1950s—have not been released on DVD, either, and that's a shame.
I've written about the DVD releases of a number of Walt's live-action features on this Commentary page. And, of course, I have quite a lot to say about those features in The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney.