From Alfalfa to Rosie the Riveter: A New Way to Watch B Movies—For Free

Tahiti Honey-1-680

         Last week,
during a phone conversation with an old friend who is an eminent film scholar
and professor I asked, “Have you heard that Tahiti
is streaming for free online?” and he said “What? How can I see it?”
Such is the excitement among connoisseurs of the arcane and obscure upon
learning that the Paramount Vault YouTube channel is offering a random
selection of titles from its vast Republic Pictures library. These are pristine,
uncut versions of B-movie titles from the 1940s and ‘50s. Are they any good?
That’s all in the eye of the beholder (read: no, not really) but they are rare.

Tahiti Honey-News Ad-2-150

         Never mind
that Paramount is also offering Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900 and John Cassavetes’ Love
, as well as highlight clips from scores of films like Airplane!, Forrest Gump, and Footloose. Most of those titles have
always been accessible. Not so for the Republic archive.

         I wish there
were some rhyme or reason for the selection but it appears to be random, based
on titles that have been restored. Among the offerings: the aforementioned Tahiti Honey (1943), a threadbare
musical starring Dennis O’Keefe and the winsome Simone Simon (whose French
accent magically disappears whenever she sings—thanks to an unnamed dubber), Rosie the Riveter (1944) with Jane
Frazee, Frank Albertson, Vera Vague (Barbara Jo Allen), and Carl “Alfalfa”
Switzer, and Remember Pearl Harbor (1942)
with Don “Red” Barry. Barry also appears in one of the handful of Westerns on the
channel (The Man from the Rio Grande,
1943), with fellow contractee Allan Lane headlining Trail of Kit Carson (1945).

         One of
Republic’s specialties was servicing small-town theaters in America’s heartland
by featuring what used to be called hillbilly performers like Roy Acuff in O, My Darling, Clementine (1943). Mary
Lee headlines Barnyard Follies
(1940), which features Rufe Davis, Alfalfa Switzer, Dorothy Harrison, Queen of
Dairyland and “Radio’s Popular Entertainers ‘Pappy’ Cheshire, The Cackle Sisters,
Jim Jeffries, The Kidoodlers, Ralph Bowman, Isabel Randolph as ‘Mrs. Uppington.’

         One of the
oddities of the Republic catalog is that it includes a number of British
productions that studio chief Herbert J. Yates acquired for U.S. distribution,
like Laugh it Off (1940) with popular
English comedy star Tommy Trinder and others that he co-financed like Track the Man Down (1955) with Kent
Taylor and Petula Clark.

Rosie the Riveter-4680

         And there are
condensations of some latter-day Republic serials like Cyclotrode X, a feature-length version of The Crimson Ghost (1946) and Satan’s
derived from Zombies of
the Stratosphere

         Last but not
least, you’ll see unexpected titles that found their way into the collection,
like Norman Krasna’s The Devil and Miss
(1941) with Jean Arthur and Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).

         If I had my
druthers, I’d love to see Paramount release some vintage Republic serials in
their entirety. (Olive Films, which has dug deep into this archive, has only
released some later, lesser examples like The
Invisible Monster
and Flying Disc Man
from Mars
on DVD and Blu-ray.)

         Republic also
owns the old NTA short subject library, which is chockfull of fascinating
material, and a nifty behind-the-scenes series called Meet the Stars, which features rare footage of Orson Welles, Gene
Autry, and Roy Rogers, among others. There’s also one feature I’ve always been
curious about: Sons of Adventure
(1948), “the story of movie stunt men,” which was directed by the great Yakima

Don Miller-B Movies

         Here’s hoping
that the folks at Paramount continue digging, and invite their audience to
suggest titles they’d like to see. I’ve done my part.

this is as good a place as any to remind you that Don Miller’s unique and
exhaustive book "B" Movies is back in
print, thanks to Amazon Kindle. If you purchase it as an e-book you can
word-search any of the hundreds of titles he describes; if you buy the
print-on-demand softcover there is no index, sorry to say, but it still makes
great reading and is an indispensable guide to the world of Bs.



  1. Carol Hughes says:

    Great news about the a paramount vault.
    Regarding the Don Miller book, I clicked the link to Amazon and they do not have the print on demand book which I would like.

  2. Darwyn says:

    Thanks for the comment. The current link will take you to all formats for Don Miller’s book.

  3. Michael says:

    Paramount Archive

  4. Michael says:

    I too love the You Tube/Paramount Archive and would love to see complete serials (one chapter per week would be just like the old days). Leonard, have you ever checked out The Serial Squadron website? They work on restoring classic (PD) serials both sound and silent eras. Fantastic work by Eric Stedman and his team.

  5. Herb Finn says:

    Worth Mentioning Paramount now longer owns thier pre-1948 library of films, having sold them to MCA (now Universal) in the 1950’s. Funny how things work out – Paramount owns the cream of Republic but not their classic stuff 🙂

  6. Herb Finn says:

    They also don’t add-rotate classic films enough – this batch of Republic they put up at the end of December is the first major batch of Republic titles they’ve done!

  7. Norm says:

    Word to Leonard how can I recommend titles if I’ve never been exposed to them ? Many titles never shown even worse not promoted. If there were a list of all films , tv shows, shorts ever made this would be a good starting point and some way to cross reference stars , directors, production companies, etc. That would be something Leonard could work on…Good job LM.

  8. Michael says:

    Apparently this service doesn’t appear to be available for European YouTube users.
    I wasn’t able to play any of the titles mentioned. Too bad….

  9. Dave Kirwan says:

    Have been enjoying this service for a month or so thanks to an your initial alert. And thanks for the shout-out for the perky pride of Duluth, Minnesota, Jane Frazee.

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