Remembering Harold Arlen

The great songsmith Harold Arlen was born 116 years ago today in Buffalo, New York. His father was a Jewish cantor.

In the late 1920s and early ’30s, Arlen as a band vocalist with Red Nichols, Joe Venuti and Leo Reisman, among others.

Arlen wrote for motion pictures, Broadway musicals and Cotton Club reviews, working with such esteemed lyricists as Ted Koehler, E. Y. “Yip” Harburg, Ira Gershwin, and Johnny Mercer.

We’re featuring recordings of Arlen’s compositions all day today on Cladrite Radio. Why not tune in now?

Harold Arlen


Remember to Watch ‘Remember the Night’

Remember the Night posterIf you think you’ve seen every classic Christmas picture (and most of them one too many times, at that), you’ll be pleasantly surprised, we hope, to learn of one that’s flown under the radar of many a classic movie buff.

Remember the Night (1940) was the last movie Preston Sturges wrote before moving into the director’s chair with The Great McGinty (1940). Mitchell Leisen directs here, and though Sturges was said to have been disappointed with Leisen’s efforts, it’s hard to imagine why. It’s a terrific picture, one that should be every bit the holiday favorite that pictures such as It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, The Shop Around the Corner, and others have become.

Remember the Night features Fred MacMurray as an ambitious assistant D.A. in NYC who finds himself with shoplifter Barbara Stanwyck on his hands because he has asked for a delay in her trial, so as to avoid the jury feeling any holiday-inspired sympathy for her.

It soon comes out that both the D.A. and the dame are Hoosiers, so she accompanies him on a road trip to visit their respective families. Stanwyck’s brief visit with her mother doesn’t go so well, though, so she sticks with MacMurray, whereupon romance and laughs ensue.

Remember the Night is plenty sentimental enough to qualify as a holiday classic, but like It’s a Wonderful Life, it’s got a dark side, too, delivered with gimlet-eyed bite.

It’s a favorite of ours, a picture that deserves much greater fame and acclaim that it has been afforded. Turner Classic Movies has teamed with Universal to offer it on DVD, but if you’d like to try before you buy, it’s airing on TCM tonight (Dec. 18, 2020) at 8:00 p.m. ET. Set your DVR now and give it a look; you won’t regret it.

This post was first published in slightly different form on December 6, 2013.

Happy Anniversary, Casablanca!

It’s a tough choice, but if asked to name our favorite motion picture of all time, we’d have to say it’s Casablanca​, which premiered on November 26, 1942, in New York City. (You can still visit the theatre where it debuted, but you’ll have to watch the video to learn more about that.)

We rewatched the “La Marseillaise” scene recently, in which a passionate rendition of the French national anthem gives the patrons of Rick’s Cafe Americain a small but satisfying victory over Maj. Strasser and his Nazi henchmen, and though we’ve seen this wonderful movie easily a dozen times (probably closer to two dozen), that scene still gave us chills.

Here are 16 things you should know about Casablanca​, the official movie of Cladrite Radio…

A Salute to Luke the Dog

One of life’s great pleasures is watching dogs in silent comedies, and perhaps the greatest of them all was Luke, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier that belonged to Roscoe Arbuckle and his wife, actress Minta Durfee.

Luke enjoyed a six-year career in pictures—from 1914-1920—working not only with Arbuckle, but also with other comedy stars of the era, such as Mabel Normand, Buster Keaton, Betty Compson and Edgar Kennedy, among others.

Arbuckle and Durfee acquired Luke as a puppy in November 1913 from film director Wilfred Lucas. Some say Lucas gave the pup to Durfee in lieu of “hazard pay” for a dangerous stunt he asked her to perform during the filming of one of his pictures. It’s reported that Luke’s name was inspired by the director’s last name.

It was Arbuckle, though, who trained and taught Luke to perform on command for the camera, and Luke was one game pooch when the call of “Action” was heard. He earned $150 a week when working on a film—approximately $2,000 in today’s money.

Luke’s final performance came in the Buster Keaton short The Scarecrow(1920), and it’s sequences from that film that we’ve edited to create this video tribute (you should watch the entire short—it’s terrific).

Arbuckle and Durfee separated in 1921 and later divorced, and it was Durfee who was awarded custody of Luke, though Arbuckle retained visitation rights. It’s thought that the pair’s parting of the ways is what led to the end of Luke’s acting career.

Luke died, age 13, in 1926. He was a good dog and a wonderful performer.