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For, April 11, 2014

Sunday night a local 10 o'clock news anchor announced the death of Mickey Rooney by saying he was famous as one of the Hardy Boys. She was, of course, referring to Rooney's 16-film run in the 1930s and '40s as spunky teenager Andy Hardy.

The Hardy Boys? That was something else.

But this anchorwoman is in her 30s and probably didn't have a clue about Mickey Rooney, unless she saw "The Black Stallion" (1980) as a kid. And even then she probably didn't remember the name of the old guy that played the horse's trainer in the second half of the film. (Although the film earned Rooney his fourth Oscar nomination.)


       Dick Van Dyke, Bill Cobbs, Rooney, "A Night at the Museum."

Rooney was much more than Andy Hardy, though, and the fact that he was 92 when he died — and still working (he is listed as a cast member of "A Night at the Museum 3," which opens in December) — speaks to his longevity.


                          Rooney as "Mickey McGuire."

Rooney's earliest performances were in shorts that spanned the end of the silent era through the first half of the 1930s as sound was taking over Hollywood. During that time, he played "Mickey McGuire" in 78 short comedies adapted from a newspaper comic strip.

It was after signing a contract with MGM that he was on his way to the A-list. Following a series of supporting roles in major and minor movies, he began to be recognized for supporting roles in such all-star prestige pictures as "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1935, as Puck), "Captains Courageous" (1936) and "Ah, Wilderness!" (1935).


 Rooney and Judy Garland in poster for "Andy Hardy" sequel.

Rooney was not one to settle for typecasting in light comedy, however, and he demonstrated his range in such MGM hits as "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (1938), "Boys Town" (1938), "Babes in Arms" (1939), "Young Tom Edison" (1939), "The Human Comedy" (1943), "National Velvet" (1944), "Quicksand" (1949), "The Bold and the Brave" (1955), "Baby Face nelson" (1957) and many more.


                Elizabeth Taylor, Rooney in "National Velvet."

Rooney was famously short, and much was made of that fact (often self-effacing jokes he himself made), but in Hollywood he stood tall.

In addition to his four Oscar nominations, Rooney's career was sort of bookended with two special Oscars — one a "Juvenile Award," which he shared with Deanna Durbin in 1938, and the other a lifetime-achievement Honorary Award, which he received in 1983.

The latter was given to him for "50 years of versatility," and then he continued to make movies for another 30 years.

Rooney was the living embodiment of that old adage, "The show must go on."

But it was his comic-relief supporting role in a little B-movie titled "A Family Affair" (1937), in which he played the teenage son of a judge, that shot him to star player. The film was never intended to begin a franchise, but it was so popular, and Andy was such a breakout character, that it led to more movies about the Hardy family, with Rooney eventually taking center stage.


Movies of the Week


For, April 11, 2014

No one will be surprised if "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" holds onto the No. 1 spot at the box office for a second weekend, but a few contenders are going on the fool's errand of trying to knock the Marvel monster hit off its perch.

Lined up are a sports comedy/drama starring Kevin Costner, a sequel to a 2011 animated feature that was a surprise hit, a testosterone-fueled Asian action sequel and a horror film.

"Draft Day" (PG-13) casts Costner as the manager of the Cleveland Browns football team and the action is built around his efforts to acquire the No. 1 draft pick after a 13-year losing streak. Co-stars include Jennifer Garner, Frank Langella, Tom Welling, Rosanna Arquette, Sam Elliott, Denis Leary and Ellen Burstyn. (The film initially received an R rating for language but was appealed and received a PG-13 without any cuts.)

"Rio 2" (G) has macaws Blu and Jewel, and their kids, traveling from Rio de Janeiro to the Amazon rainforest for new adventures. The first film was noted for its colorful production design and this looks to be just as vividly drawn. And it's rated G instead of the usual animated PG! I didn't know that was still possible. Voice talent includes Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Leslie Mann, Bruno Mars, George Lopez, Jamie Foxx, Andy Garcia, Kristin Chenoweth and Rita Moreno.

The Raid 2: Berandal" (R, Indonesian), a sequel to the slam-bang 2011 picture "The Raid: Redemption," is apparently just as fueled by constant action as the original, this time with Rama (Iko Uwais) infiltrating a crime syndicate to uncover corruption in the police department. But plot will likely not matter; it's all about throw-downs, kick-ups and shootouts.

"Oculus" (R) is a well-reviewed horror yarn about a possessed antique mirror that has been driving its owners to kill family members for centuries. The cast includes Katee Sackhoff, Karen Gillan and Rory Cochrane.

Two new films are also opening in Salt Lake City's downtown art house, the Broadway Centre Cinemas: Errol Morris' documentary "The Unknown Known" (PG-13), about former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and "Le Week-End" (R), a British comedy-drama about an older couple (Lindsay Duncan, Jim Broadbent) returning to Paris, where they honeymooned, in an effort to rekindle the spark in their marriage.

DVD of the Week



For, April 11, 2014

My only real complaint about Ben Stiller's "reboot" of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (PG) is that it uses that title, since the story is so far removed from James Thurber's three-page short story it seems ludicrous to even bring Thurber into it.

Is every movie about daydreaming now going to feel it should evoke Mitty's name in the title?

That said, this "Mitty" does seem to capture Thurber's spirit and intent in a surprisingly warm, sweet and whimsically funny movie of the kind we really don't expect to see these days, and which is quite different from anything Stiller has previously directed.

This is his fifth directing effort, after "Reality Bites" (1994, PG-13), "The Cable Guy" (1996, PG-13), "Zoolander" (2001, PG-13) and "Tropic Thunder" (2008, R). Each is quite varied in its theme and approach, but if they have something in common it's a penchant for vulgarity that, for the first three, really pushes the PG-13 rating.

 "Mitty" is unexpectedly much gentler; not at all coarse. And it's rated PG! When did you last see a PG rating on a live-action movie?

The story is built around the shuttering of Life Magazine after its final issue, which requires a picture that meek, daydreaming photo editor Mitty (Stiller) fears he has lost. He's more comfortable sitting in his office or at home and imagining great adventures, but the need for this photo sends him out on an unlikely adventure, and it is chronicled in a delightful way.

For me, this was the biggest surprise of 2013, and I'm looking forward to watching it again.

"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, April 15, and deserves as wide an audience as it can attract. Hope you'll be a part of it.


Hi. I'm Chris Hicks.

But if you're looking for Chris Hicks the Australian rugby player or the American recording-industry executive or the Major League Baseball player or the author of "Think" or the singer-songwriter or the former basketball player, you're in the wrong place.

I'm Chris Hicks the movie guy from Salt Lake City. If that's who you're looking for, welcome to my website as I enter the 21st century … a little late (May 2013).

This site is all about movies, well mostly, and it's also about me, I guess, but I'll try to keep my ego in check.

My goal, my hope, is that you will be able to browse the pages here and be alerted to or reminded of some great movie you've never heard of or forgotten about. In other words, something that might enhance your movie-watching experience, whether it's by Alfred Hitchcock or Joss Whedon, or stars Audrey Hepburn or Jennifer Lawrence or someone you never heard of. And I've also tried to make it fun.

The bulk of stories and reviews here are gleaned from my 30-plus years of writing about film for the Deseret News, a daily newspaper in Salt Lake City, with side trips here and there to other entertainment forms.

I'm still writing for the D-News and contributing the occasional article to the website Familius, publisher of my May 2013 book, "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind?"

This site is a mix of archival stuff (with permission) from the Deseret News, along with an array of non-DesNews material, including new blogs, reviews and stories as often as I can manage to squeeze them out.

Hope you enjoy my little site. If you do, tell your friends. If you don't, just say you couldn't find it.

Chris H.

Shameless Hucksterism


Click cover for article.



        Click cover for interview with Chris.



   Click here for Deseret News interview.

   Click here for Deseret News review.



Golden Oldies On the Big Screen



For, April 11, 2014

One of those grand star-studded adventure epics from the 1960s, "The Guns of Navarone" (1961) is an excellent action picture that teams three top actors in the lead roles — Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn — with some equally terrific performers in support: James Darren, Stanley Baker, Anthony Quayle, Irene Papas and Gia Scala.


Also, a young unknown called Richard Harris (just a year away from gaining attention opposite Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard in "Mutiny on the Bounty," and really making his mark starring in "This Sporting Life").


"Navarone" is a World War II drama about Allied commandoes teaming up to go after an "indestructible" German fortress, based on the Alistair MacLean best-selling novel. They disguise themselves as Greek fishermen to infiltrate the fortress, which air attacks have been unable to bring down.

This was the third biggest hit of 1961 (after "101 Dalmatians" and "West Side Story"), and is considered part of a cycle of superior World War II epics that included "The Bridge on the River Kwai" (1957) and "The Great Escape" (1963). (A sequel released in 1978 stars Robert Shaw, Edward Fox and Harrison Ford.)

"The Guns of Navarone" will show Tuesday, April 15, at 10 a.m., in the SCERA Center theater in Orem.

Golden Oldies Finally On DVD



For, April 11, 2014

James Mason is probably best remembered in support of Cary Grant in Hitchcock's "North By Northwest" (1959) and Judy Garland in "A Star Is Born" (1954).

And fantasy fans may know him as Capt. Nemo in Disney's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1954) and as the adventurer who takes a "Journey to the Center of the Earth" (1959).

When he was older, Mason had prominent roles in "The Boys From Brazil" (1978), "The Verdict" (1982) and played Watson to Christopher Plummer's Holmes in "Murder By Decree" (1979).

But he was also a leading man in his own right and had a number of memorable starring roles in the 1950s, including "5 Fingers" (1952, b/w), an exceptional spy thriller based on the true story of a valet to a British ambassador during World War II who sold secrets to the Nazis.

Mason is excellent as the valet, and the film ratchets up suspense as he does his dirty work, only to find himself eventually implicated by a woman scorned.  


He then pulls off one last major-documents theft for the Nazis, to help him escape to South America with great wealth, only to be undone by an ironic twist.

This terrific film was released on VHS in 1998 but has never been on DVD — until now. This new release from Fox Cinema Archives marks "5 Fingers' " disc debut and it looks great. Available at Amazon and other online outlets.