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PARADISE ALLEY (1962) Billy Gilbert, Chester Conklin

Posted: Thu Jun 15, 2017 2:03 am
by Richard M Roberts
This is an amazing little movie. Released in 1962, produced, directed, and starring Hugo Haas, look at the rest of the cast: Billy Gilbert, Chester Conklin, Corinne Griffith, Marie Windsor, Margaret Hamilton, Pat Goldin, William Schallert.

All giving fascinating performances in a sweet story about a "condemned" neighborhood where everyone has forgotten how to get along, and a faded film director who enters their lives.

And if that "condemned" neighborhood looks familiar, it's the Hal Roach Studios, pretty much "condemned" itself when this film was one of the last made there.


Re: PARADISE ALLEY (1962) Billy Gilbert, Chester Conklin

Posted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 10:13 am
by Maurice Terenzio
Interesting. I wrote about this little gem to some friends who I thought might be interested. What follows is that correspondence. I purposely attempted to be a trifle vague as far as the plot is concern to avoid spoilers, not that it is the type of movie that can spoil in a mystery. Perhaps I may have given away more than some readers would care to know. Just a word of warning.

Paradise Alley (filmed in 1958 but barely released in 1962) has never reached the home market. This may just be a guilty pleasure of mine. No, it can't be because my guilty pleasure would be Bride of the Monster (1955). Paradise Alley is not a great film. It is probably not even a good one. But it is an unusual film with an unusual cast of professional and unknown supporting people. Don Sullivan who is best known from his role in the shlock sci-fi horror film The Giant Gila Monster (1959) plays the son of Margaret Hamilton and Tom Fadden. Carol Morris who was Miss Universe in 1956 plays the daughter of Billy Gilbert and silent star Corinne Griffith. This was Ms. Griffith's first film in nearly thirty years. It was also her final film. Silent comedian Chester Conklin plays the part of a retired cameraman who used to work for D.W. Griffith. Marie Windsor plays a burlesque dancer. William Schallert is particularly interesting as a studio executive. Cult actor Duke Mitchell who is best remembered as the star of Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952) is also along for the ride. The film is produced, written, directed and stars Hugo Haas. I understand Haas has the reputation of being the European Ed Wood. If true it is rather unfair because although this film is very low budget, it is quite competently made. It is such an odd little picture, I find myself rather attracted to it. I may be to easy of a marker, so you probably won't care for the film but if you gave it a chance, it might just grow on a fungus. Candidly, I wanted to bail during the opening song, the title of which, "Stars in the Backyard", was the original title of the picture before the distributor change it to Paradise Alley. A word of warning, the plot doesn't really get started until the 28 minute mark. Up to that point, the film is introducing us to most of the characters and the situation. A neighborhood that is not only depressed economically, but also inhabited by residences who are at odds with one another. Mr. Agnus (Hugo Haas) wishes to do something about it so he hatches a plan with the aid of Mr. Gregory (Chester Conklin) and Gregory's friend Pat Gillis (Pat Goldin). This trio pretends that they are going to make a movie involving everyone in the neighborhood who wishes to participate. The hope is that unifying everyone in a common cause might lessen and perhaps even reverse the air of hostility. This plan unfolds and unravels and ultimately finishes as what they use to refer to as a feel good picture.

Re: PARADISE ALLEY (1962) Billy Gilbert, Chester Conklin

Posted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 7:07 pm
by Richard M Roberts
I don't think there's any reason to consider PARADISE ALLEY a "guilty" pleasure in any sense of the word, it is a nice little picture with some amazing performances by some great old pros that actually has a nice message about how one can return kindness to ones life when people lose sight of others being people too (gee, kinda sorta relevant to today's society, ain't it?). Yes, just grit your teeth or hit the fast-forward past the opening song, and the rest is quite worthwhile.

I've never understood the problem people have with a picture being "low-budget", how would a bigger budget helped this film, it's set in a slum to begin with! What makes it is a group of old-pro actors the caliber of Billy Gilbert, Corrine Griffith, Chester Conklin (who proves he is actually good in a sizeable part with lots of dialogue that calls for more than Keystone clowning) and Margaret Hamilton getting to stretch beyond their usual comedic stereotypes and play realistic people, heck, even Marie Windsor gets to let her hair down and be something other than a noirish femme fatale, even if she still looks pretty darn hot doing it. Money never solves the problem of lack of talent and this film has talent in spades, even the juveniles aren't bad.

Hugo Haas was a better and much more professional filmmaker than Ed Wood ever was, even his exploitation noirs are fun to watch.