Here's what inevitably happens. I share a movie with a friend or a loved one. Something I think they'll really like but probably have not seen. They love it, and I tell them "That was one of my Dad's favorite movies."

So here are some of those movies, my memories and thoughts, and what made them my Dad's favorites.

Monday, December 21, 2009


In the 1960’s and 70’s, director Don Siegel was known for his urban, gritty, often violent crime dramas, the best example being “Dirty Harry.” In the 1950’s, he was known as an up-and-coming director of tough and smart “B” pictures, like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” But in the late 1930’s and 40’s, he was under contract to Warner Brothers, and his specialty was editing montages, those nifty, layered, transitional sequences with their spinning newspapers, peeling calendar pages, flying graphics, canted angles, stock footage and rapid fire images, for feature films. So good was he at this job that Jack Warner refused to let Siegel out of his contract so he could direct features himself. The consolation prize evidently thrown Siegel’s way was the opportunity to direct short subjects for the studio. Two he directed in 1945 both won Academy Awards in 1946 - “Hitler Lives” for Best Documentary, Short Subject and “A Star in the Night” for Best Short Subject, Two-Reel.

A Star In The Night” is an modern re-imagining of the Nativity Story, writ small, personal and accessible. It is a parable with J. Carrol Naish as a disenchanted Scrooge-like “inn-keeper” who, along with his rather misenthropic guests, learns the true meaning of Christmas when, on Christmas Eve, three gift-bearing cowboys, a philosophical hitchhiker, and a young pregnant couple named Maria and Jose, converge on his isolated desert motel after he erects a giant shining electric star to attract business.

A talented and ubiquitous character actor with over 200 film and television credits, Naish is best known to my generation as the villainous Daka in the 1943 “Batman” theatrical serial, and for roles in genre pictures such as “House of Frankenstein” and “The Beast with Five Fingers,” all seen in television re-runs and distributed on 8mm film for home viewing. He was perhaps best knows to my father’s generation in the title role of the top rated radio comedy, Life with Luigi.

The cast is rounded out with recognizable character actors the likes of Donald Woods, whose television and move career spanned six decades; Rosina Galli, at one time the prima ballerina (1914-29) and ballet mistress (1930-34) of the Metropolitan Opera; Richard Erdman, who is still making movies and television shows to this day; blustery Dick Elliot, who with 350 credits specialized in rotund and apoplexic characters, with memorable parts in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, ” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and as the original Mayor Pike on “The Andy Griffith Show;” silent film actress Claire Du Brey; Irving Bacon, with an astonishing 500 + screen credits, a dozen of which were for director Frank Capra; and Anthony Caruso, who, with almost 250 big and small screen credits, played the mob boss Bela Oxmyx in the original Star Trek series episode, "A Piece of the Action.”

Produced to play in theaters as part of a feature program during the holiday season, this is one of many interesting short subjects created by the Hollywood studio system at its heyday that might have been lost forever were it not for Turner Classic Movies.

It is a terrific film for the holiday season, moving, amusing and imaginative. Siegel keeps the plot and characters moving, and you can almost forget that nearly the entire film takes place in one set. Part of the fun is watching these talented actors make emotional u-turns as they decide to sacrifice their comforts to help the young couple in need. Also amusing is how Siegel and writer Saul Elkins cleverly avoid any direct mention of the couple's delicate condition, sidestepping any issues with Production Code restrictions and creating a running gag in the process.

I can’t say that “A Star in the Night,” was one of my Dad’s favorite movies. I can’t even say for sure if he ever saw it. But it’s one I think he would have liked very much, if for no other reason than the cleverness of the allegory and the filmmakers’ commitment to the metaphor. One of my Dad’s favorite movies was John Ford’s enjoyably overwrought “3 Godfathers,” which similarly retells the Nativity story with equal ingenuity.

You can see "A Star in the Night" here in its entirety.  Consider it a twenty minute Christimas card, and Happy Holidays.


  1. Thanks for the DM. I saw part of this film long ago but missed the title. I would not have recognized it on the TCM schedule. I'll be sure to tweet your article.

  2. Hi thanks for uploading.

    Could you provide download links?


  3. Thanks for the DM. I'm interested on this videos. Where do you found it? I would like get it.

    Thanks for all.


© 2009 Edward Bowen