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Public Wedding (1937)
So fantastic! One of DeWolf Jr.'s (although strangely for the era he is credited as William) few leading rôles. In a way it's too bad that his lack of confidence (or ambition regarding acting?) prevented him from becoming a great star, but then again, it was also part of his charm. Stardom isn't all it's cracked up to be anyway, is it? He does a very fine job playing the romantic lead and of course we all know from Perry Mason how well he handles comedic moments. There aren't enough long scenes in which he and Jane Wyman's character are together so it's difficult to say much about their chemistry. The bits at the beginning with them fleeing the crowds and making breakfast together in his hay loft-cum-apartment are endearing, though, and their burgeoning affection comes across as genuine. What a wonderful character he plays, too. Tony Burke: starving, extremely talented artist with a generous, honest personality. See it (and record it) next chance you get!


The Footloose Heiress (1937)
Moustache, anyone? Wacky heiresses were everywhere in the 1930s (on film, anyway), but not so many wacky (or non-wacky) heiresses with moustaches. I'm not saying that Ann Sheridan has a moustache, because she doesn't; Billy does. That's right, everyone, along with many other celluloid cads of the era, our Mr. Hopper's Jack Wentworth Pierson stylishly covered part of his upper lip with manfur. Maybe the make-up people thought it made him look more rogueish or something. Throughout the beginning of the film Jack is frequently denounced as a no-good society slob, though evidence of this is sorely lacking. He gets drunk once (off camera), but after the debacle he endured the night before (which included getting chucked down the stairs by a man smaller than him), seeking relief in drink seems a fairly natural thing to do. Not healthful, maybe, but fairly natural.

...I'm sorry. I just can't get into the moustache. It throws his features out of balance. William Powell can do it (in fact I think he must!), but Billy is best fur-free and boyish.

Anyway, back to the film proper! The alarmingly handsome Craig Reynolds plays rather a twisted hobo who, by accident, enters the lives of Kay Allyn (Sheridan) and her father, and is soon to exert unimagined influence on Allyn's marital status, her Dad's career, and the hearts of many a debutante (including the gorgeous Anne Nagel, playing Billy's sister Linda Pierson). Not a bad movie, but a bit weird in an unsettling sort of way. It is more than worth watching, however, if only to hear Billy say, "I'd like to choke that hobo!"

P.S. He looks cute in anything; even a moustache.


Mystery House (1938)
Mystery House is a thoroughly entertaining whodunit that takes place in a cozy hunting lodge with corpse after corpse piling up inside, whilst outside so does the snow. This is my favourite William DeWolf Hopper Jr. picture yet. I love murder mysteries, particularly when they take place in the 1930s and the body count is above one. Billy looks unbelievably gorgeous playing 'regular guy' Lal Killian, gentleman friend to heiress Gwen Kingery (played by the angelic Anne Nagel). A prime suspect, his disarming personality alternately gives rise to feelings of affection and suspicion. He has heaps of screen time, possibly more than he has in Public Wedding, oddly enough, seeing as he plays the leading man in the latter. A couple of the other supporting actors are a bit stiff, but overall the performances are very good and the story is engaging. Ann Sheridan is sort of the leading lady as Sarah Keate: nurse to a curmudgeon and girlfriend/helper to detective Lance O'Leary (Dick Purcell). I'm really keen on Dick Purcell; he's nice to look at (sort of a lower-glam Gene Raymond) and has a fun personality, as well as being a great actor. So who did it? I'm not giving anything away. Did what? Who's dead? Lots of people. Get a cup of chocolate for this one.


Cowboy Quarterback (1939)
Weird, weird, weird. But probably not as weird as Conquest of Space, in which he has a similarly diminutive role. He does sing in it, though! See the video clip here.


Nancy Drew & the Hidden Staircase (1939)
A teensy-tiny rôle with two lines ("How did you do it?" And then offscreen, "How old are you?") that are difficult to hear over the din of other voices and commotion—but he is credited, at least! This is the best Nancy Drew picture I've seen. I really enjoy these films. Nancy (Bonita Granville) is brilliantly dotty and her sidekick Ted (Frankie Thomas) is, er, kind of sexy in a weird adolescent way. All right, maybe not so weird. And maybe not so kind of. Yes, well, any road, I love mysteries, and this one has a true hidden passage! Hidden passages are always referred to as a cliché of the mystery genre, but, really, they're quite rare, as far as my experience goes! Great action, suspense, sinister foes, and a marvellous scene between Nancy and Ted underground, nearly drowning... Not much Dewolf Jr., but a grand film.


Midnight (1939)
I hadn't any idea he was in this, and saw it the first time without noting his presence (during this first viewing I must admit to not being very attentive; I think I was drawing at the same time) . Well, the other night TCM played it again, I caught it on DVD and subsequently watched it with my ultra-lovely gentleman friend (the only fellow who makes my heart beat faster than Dewolf Jr. does!). He found it to be a top-drawer romantic comedy, as did I.

Claudette Colbert is an American hoofer named Eve Peabody who winds up in Paris with nothing but an evening gown to her name. Don Ameche plays the extremely handsome cabbie of Hungarian descent (Tibor Czerny) who does his best to help her out, only to be abandoned in favour of John Barrymore, whose offer she can't refuse. Soon, she's up to her eyes in champagne, furs and the din of Parisian society folk, loving every minute of it and anticipating an auspicious marriage. But of course, every Cinderella has her midnight...

Billy boy's appearance is brief, as a guest at Georges and Helene Flammarion's (John Barrymore and Mary Astor) party; first on the conga line and then, for but an instant, front and centre to present Eve to the attendees. Hedda (Billy's mum) plays a supporting role—I didn't know they'd ever appeared together in a film! Well, this was the only one, apparently (apart from HHH #2, of course, but that's not a proper film).

To tell you the truth, I find it very peculiar that I was able to spot Mr. Hopper in this one, as the camera is rushing by and here he's just a tuxedoed, black-and-white gent with patent leather hair amoungst a sea of tuxedoed, black-and-white gents with patent leather hair. Hrm! I nearly leapt off the couch when I spied him. Come to think of it, I did! See Midnight; it's marvellous.

A bit of trivia: Elspeth Dudgeon (Aunt Lucy in Mystery House) plays the lady whose little dog Eve nearly sits on at Stephanie's party.


The Return of Dr. X (1939)
Very cool! A scientist is ressurrecting the dead with modified blood but it's not entirely successful—the ressurrected are vampiric, their new "life" entirely dependent upon more injections of the special blood. Always on the lookout for a hot, new story, a reporter (played by Wayne Morris) stumbles into all of this and teams up with Dr. Mike Rhodes (played by Dennis Morgan) to investigate. I love Humphrey Bogart's timid and ghoulish character; a very unusual part for him to play. You-Know-Whose rôle was a bit part in the extreme: I really did blink and miss it the first time! It is worth seeing, though, that's for sure. Not only is the movie excellent, but he looks delicious. A very nice close up shot indeed. And he has a line!


Invisible Stripes (1939)
"Society Gent in Top Hat (uncredited)," says his listing at IMDB—who could resist that? Better still, his first wife Jane Gilbert appears alongside him (though you'd better keep your eyes lashed to the screen, otherwise you might miss her!). The film itself is grand, but not uplifting. Watch nice guy ex-cons struggle to make good, people make heroic sacrifices and the penal system fail (and understand why). Redress your own cynicism. Get weepy.

Anyway...

Humphrey Bogart's character is not nearly as sinister as reviews have suggested, by the way; one gets to like him. It's also interesting to see William Holden so young (it took at least fifteen minutes of me going, "Well, where is he? He's third billed!" before I realized he'd been playing George Raft's brother the entire time). If you're in the mood for something a bit sombre, see this one.

NOTE: IMDB lists this film as being released in 1939. Turner Classic Movies lists it at 1940. *shrug*


Always a Bride (1940)
A layabout (George Reeves playing Michael Stevens) does everything in his power (except work) to win back his girlfriend, then, when he finally does and marries her, her parents threaten to have the marriage annulled unless he gets a job. So what employment does he seek? The mayorship! William Hopper's rôle in this somewhat strange yarn is very brief and uncredited. He's one of the first to stand up and cheer in the crowd at the unlikely candidate's speech and then he carries him away with another supporter amid rounds of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow". Oh, and, at that same speech he's sitting next to the leading lady's ex-fiancée.


Tear Gas Squad (1940)
Inappropriately titled showcase for Dennis Morgan's lovely tenor voice. This is one of our man Bill's many blink-and-you'll-miss-it rôles. At least he has a line, though! Enjoyable.


Hedda Hopper's Hollywood No. 2 (1941)
Hedda Hopper, the infamously ruthless gossip columnist, friend to J. Edgar Hoover and Senator McCarthy (sounds like a fun lady, no? *shiver*), was also mother to William Hopper. In the 1940s she made a series of short films that showed her traipsing about Hollywood to attend various functions, show off her hats and generally intimidate or annoy those surrounding her. In the second one of these films, we are fortunate enough to have a brief though thorougly enjoyable sighting of her son and his wife Jane. It opens with our man, his wife and friends lounging outside on a covered patio. William and Jane are playing Gin Rummy whilst the others are entertained by one amoung them who specializes in impersonations. Very soon the guest of honour arrives, an old colleague of Hedda's whose birthday they will celebrate by watching a silent film they'd done together years ago. The dialogue is quite "canned" and everyone needlessly pokes fun at the melodrama of silent films, however, it is still most definitely worth seeing.


Armored Car Robbery (1950)
William Hopper doesn't appear in this film at all. William Talman, however, stars in it. Robbery is a wonderful film noir, with all the usual elements—endearing crooks, moody lighting, treachery, the femme fatale. If you thought Talman played a great bastard as District Attourney Hamilton Burger, wait 'til you see him as Dave Purvis (a.k.a. Martin Bell). Somehow, I like him even better as Purvis, perhaps because of Purvis's hint of madness. Of course, there is little character development on Perry Mason, so for all we know Burger goes about cutting the labels out of his shirts, too. This film is a must see.


Sitting Bull (1954)
Hrm. Well, if you enjoy westerns, you'll probably like Sitting Bull. I do not, though I must say this film does have the redeeming quality of showing events from a more Native American Indian-friendly perspective than most Cowboys and Indians flicks. In all honesty, I skipped through most of it seeking out Billy bits. He plays Charles Wentworth, war correspondent and romantic rival to the leading man Major Robert Parrish (Dale Robertson). The lady of his affection is very beautiful, but rather a shallow twat; definitely not worth fighting over, if you ask me, which you didn't, but, er... J. Carrol Naish plays Sitting Bull to perfection: a really nice, honourable chap one would appreciate knowing. My sincerest apologies go out to you for not having much useful to say about this movie. As I said, I'm simply not keen on westerns. Billy looks fascinatingly gorgeous, as usual. It is interesting that his hair appears completely grey-free in 1954, whereas only a year later he was as grey as he was in Perry Mason (rough year? Binned the dye?). He's also exceedingly tanned (I prefer his natural colouring—however, he was very much into sunning and swimming, from what I've read, so, living in SoCal he was probably quite tan most of the time). Er, yes. If you like cowboy movies go ahead and watch, it's probably a good one. If instead, like me, you just want to watch our man saunter about, snogging his girlfriend, and doing a lot of horseback riding, pop it in with your fingertip hovering over cue/fast-forwards.


Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
Film Without Any Good Reason to Watch It—except perhaps the opportunity for seeing Mr. Hopper in a sinister daddy rôle. Incestual tension arises between Judy (the insufferable Natalie Wood) and her father as he realises she's becoming a woman. He won't let her kiss him anymore and when she defies his wishes by giving him a peck he slaps her. Creepy. I only managed to drag myself through half of this film because I found it treacly, uncomfortable and badly acted. Sal Mineo comes across as a detestable little twit; why a person is supposed to feel sympathy for his character is beyond me. Any road, I hope I didn't miss any more scenes with daddy by fast-forwarding through the last half. Please let me know if I did. Mildly vulgar Rebel humour here.


The Deadly Mantis (1956)
The Deadly Mantis is awesome. The story and dialogue are quite good—more sophisticated than many monster films, in my opinion—and our good fellow isn't cheated on screen time in the slightest (unless you count the surplus stock footage, which, admittedly hogged more of the film than necessary). Two of my favourite scenes are A) the one with Dr. Ned Jackson (Hopper) trying to convince a fellow scientist and his lovely photographer pal Marge (Alix Talton) that the destruction and disappearances are being caused by a gargantuan, ice-age insect; and B) Ned, Marge, and Joe in Ned's office in the arctic, about to be set upon by the mantis. Incidentally, Joe—Col. Joe Parkman—is played by Craig Stevens, who reminds me quite forcefully of Raymond Burr in appearance and demeanour, and, was best known for playing Peter Gunn in the 1958-1961 television series.


The Bad Seed (1956)
Yes, well, this one is, er, something else! Although I knew at the outset that this film was based on a play (which was, in turn, based upon a book), knowledge of the fact apparently slipped my mind shortly after the opening credits rolled, because I repeatedly found myself asking, "Why do I feel as though I'm watching a soap opera?" This is not to say I didn't enjoy it. The concept was good, is good, and as long as The Bad Seed is taken as-is, i.e. not expected to be flash and crisp and noir, it is very much worth watching. William Hopper's rôle is moderately sized; he plays daddy again; this time nice daddy to not-so-nice girl. At the beginning of the film, Daddums must leave his picture-perfect family for four weeks in order to conduct business in Washington. During his absence, the perfect picture begins to chip away, revealing some very nasty canvas indeed. His daughter turns out to be a sociopathic little bitch who kills for trinkets and playthings (and once to save her own arse) and his wife is dispossessed of her marbles (in nearly more ways than one). This is a very wearing movie to sit through in spots. People get thoroughly emotional and lose their minds and we, the audience members, are spared virtually nothing. One-hundred twenty-nine minutes of this is a bit much, and I'm not one to complain about the length of a film. But! Very nice shots of Bill in physique-revealing clothes (no towels or bathing costumes, I'm afraid, just trousers and shirtsleeves). Three other Perry Mason actors (Paul Fix, Jesse White and Frank Cady) have supporting rôles and a few others have bit parts.


20,000,000 Miles to Earth (1957):
Sort of awful, but in a good way. This is a classic B-Movie of the Science Fiction genre. A secret government space plane on the way back from Venus incurs technical difficulties and crashes into the ocean near Sicily, Italy. Only one astronaut survives (you guessed it). As the doctors are attending to our leading man, a capsule washes ashore, which is spotted by an enterprising young lad. The boy sells it to a local scientist and chaos ensues! I really enjoyed 20,000,000 Miles to Earth for the obvious reasons as well as spotting a Perry Mason character actor or two. It's heartening that William Hopper's character is sympathetic to the "monster"; this made my appreciation of the film grow manyfold.


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