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New on Disc: 'Who's Minding the Store?' and more …

2 Apr, 2012 By: Mike Clark

Who’s Minding the Store?

Olive, Comedy, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jerry Lewis, Jill St. John, Agnes Moorehead, Ray Walston.
This fifth of eight Jerry Lewis vehicles directed by one-time Warner animator Frank Tashlin would probably be just as happy without what is, charitably speaking, the limited plotting that it has. Lewis plays a guy in his mid-20s at a time when, in real life, he was either a late 36 or early 37. Cast as a “Norman,” Lewis somehow has managed to attract one of the consummately built babes of the Hollywood day — Jill St. John — whose character pretends to be a department store elevator operator when she is really the daughter of the snob (Agnes Moorehead) who owns the building. In Looney Tunes fashion, Tashlin and his star are much more interested having a grand time staging the physical mayhem that destroys many of the store’s displays. You know this is bound to happen when Norman gets hired as a clerk, and mom Moorehead (working with lackey Ray Walston) plots to sabotage his every move.
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Blessed Event

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $19.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Lee Tracy, Mary Brian, Dick Powell.
Until the classic Sweet Smell of Success took the first splashy swipe at a fictional Walter Winchell, he had the ability to make the powerful quake if they had skeletons in their closets — or if he even thought they did. Winchell also ended up in a few movies, usually playing himself or doing voiceover narration (think of his bang-up job on TV’s “The Untouchables”). Blessed Event, though, is a play-to-film that was fashioned on him. Cast as this transparent variation (a columnist named Alvin Roberts) is Lee Tracy, who had few peers in playing irreverent wisecrackers in the 1930s. Tracy was one of the era’s foremost “brash” performers in a screen era full of them, and Event is probably the premier vehicle from his youth or relative youth (he never looked young). Event is also one of the definitive newspaper movies from that same ink-stained era, though it is so contemporary in its attitude — in its heart, it’s a love song to the TMZ kind of ambush — it could probably be remade today. Tracy/Roberts takes over a New York rag’s column when its regular writer is on vacation, soon filling it with coy allusions to “blessed events”  — which are those cute little bundles that either come along without benefit of clergy or at least too soon after shotgun ceremonies involving celebrities or the otherwise well-heeled.
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The Big Night

Manufactured on demand via select online retailers
Fox/MGM, Drama, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Stars John Barrymore Jr., Preston Foster, Joan Lorring.
This is the fifth and final Hollywood movie that Wisconsin-born Joseph Losey directed (in pretty much anti-Hollywood style) before he took refuge in British cinema during the HUAC witch hunts. Night is almost all nocturnal mood and reminds me a little of some of the Brit black-and-whiters Losey made in the late ’50s before his mostly uneven career took off a decade later. For reasons that have more to do with curiosity factor than what’s actually on the screen, it is quite a curio. The lead is John Barrymore Jr. (real-life father of Drew), and he’s playing the earliest teen I can ever recall on screen where an authority figure tells him to get a haircut. And then there’s the early scene that sets up the rest: The teen’s saloon-owner father (Preston Foster) getting flogged with the cane of a limping newspaper sportswriter (Howard St. John).
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