It looks like there’s a good week ahead for classic movie fans—entire days dedicated to Garbo, Claudette Colbert, and John Garfield, for one thing, as well as TCM’s screening of one of the finest silent films ever made Saturday night (though I must say, in the interest of full disclosure—I’ll be watching Doctor Who!). And then—you’ll be shocked—there’s one day on which I had difficulty finding anything at all! *collective gasp*
First up, tomorrow, Thursday, September 13, TCM provides a day of sure-fire likable films with the wonderful Claudette Colbert. Why they’re not running these in prime time, I’m not sure, but just think: you can leave the DVR running all day long and have a nice stack of movies waiting for rainy and wintry days.
- 8AM It Happened One Night ’34 The classic Capra screwball comedy—the film used to punish Gable and that reviewers didn’t expect much from—has endured, and is now (rightly) considered one of the finest romantic comedies of all time. Filmed in four weeks, many of It Happened One Night’s scenes were finished in single—superb—takes. Word of mouth made it a big film; the movie surprised everyone by sweeping the Academy Awards—Best Actor, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Picture, Best Screenplay. Colbert—who had earlier told friends “I’ve just finished the worst picture in the world!” when filming wrapped—was boarding a train when someone told her she’d won Best Actress…and raced back to accept her Oscar while still wearing her travelling suit. This is not one you want to miss—even if you’ve seen it before!
- 12:30PM Cleopatra ’34 Claudette was a busy lady in ’34. Directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring with Warren William and Robert Warwick, I hope I remember to record this one for later viewing.
- 2:30PM Without Reservations ’46 Caught this one a few years ago, and though it’s not great like It Happened One Night, it’s very enjoyable viewing. Claudette plays a successful novelist who falls in with two Marines on a train—war heroes played by John Wayne and Don DeFore. Yes, John Wayne in a romantic comedy! This is worth watching for that alone. Another road trip comedy, not quite as screwball as some, but still fun.
- 4:30PM It’s A Wonderful World ’39 Accused of murder, Jimmy Stewart’s PI kidnaps poetess Claudette Colbert. Of course she begins to fall in love with this man, and finds herself trying to clear his name. It becomes downright madcap from the sound of things, with Stewart donning various disguises as he attempts to elude the law long enough to be proven innocent. This one sounds like quite an escapade!
- 6PM The Palm Beach Story ’42 This was on a week or so ago during prime time, and was quite entertaining. Claudette Colbert, deciding she’s holding her husband back, flees in order to obtain a divorce, only to catch the eye of a Rockefeller-like millionaire (Rudy Vallee) along the way. Swept along by circumstance, she finds herself at his mansion with his sister (played by the always fabulous Mary Astor)—who falls in love with Claudette’s husband, played by Joel McCrea. Few directors could get away with wackiness like Preston Sturges did—and in The Palm Beach Story, he had wonderful tools to do it with!
Friday, September 14 looks a little thin on the ground ’til primetime, when we get to see the great Bette Davis play Elizabeth I not once, but twice. I’ve long been fascinated by Elizabeth I, and read books about her since I was a child (so, I had an odd childhood…). I’ve also seen a few films about her, and have to say—Bette does such a fine job bringing her to life—in a Hollywood way, yes, but oh, so good.
- 9:30AM The Sea Wolf ’41 Edward G. Robinson stars as the brilliant but cruel sea captain in this film based on Jack London’s novel (yes, I was disappointed as a child to learn this was not another Call Of The Wild-type tale featuring a REAL dog, but just go with it here). John Garfield and Ida Lupino also star as shipwreck victims trying to escape Robinson’s creeping insanity. Hey. It’s Eddie G! You need OTHER reasons to watch?!
- 8PM The Virgin Queen ’55 Despite being filmed in lovely CinemaScope colour, the trailer is in black and white. Is it just me, or does that seem like a poor marketing decision? At any rate, such concerns will be lost once you begin enjoying this tale of Elizabeth I and her struggles with Sir Walter Raleigh and various court…um…competition. Bette is wonderful, of course. Having caught the last half-hour or so of this recently, I have to say based on that I don’t think it is quite as good as the 12AM offering, but it’s enjoyable nevertheless.
- 12AM The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex ’39 Bette Davis with Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland (as well as Donald Crisp, Alan Hale, Vincent Price, and Robert Warwick) in a film directed by the great Michael Curtiz that also happens to be from 1939, the best year Hollywood has ever had. The end. (No, not accurate history, but it’s such fun to watch!)
Saturday, September 15 heralds one of TCM’s almost-frequent-enough screenings of the great Sunrise. Please DO NOT MISS this movie. Tape it while you watch Doctor Who, if you must, but watch it. And all night in prime time, it’s movies about spouses trying to kill their better half. Good thing TCM didn’t run this lineup near Valentine’s Day (which, for the record, I despise).
- 1:30PM No Time For Sergeants ’58 Considered Andy Griffith’s best comic film outing; I missed it last time TCM aired it, but maybe I’ll catch it this time.
- 8PM Sunrise ’27 Fully entitled Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans, I encourage you to watch this exquisite silent film, which I first saw at 3AM (ah, insomnia!) several years ago and have loved ever since. Considered the best silent film ever created, the story is simple—seduced by an exciting woman from the city, a farmer plots to murder his wife—but remarkably compelling, perhaps because it all rings so true about human nature. Things don’t go as you may think they will. The cinematography and art direction are truly fantastic; the performances perfect. Sunrise will stay with you. Watch it.
- 10PM Strangers On A Train ’51 I’ve mentioned this Hitchcock goody before, and my verdict stands: Don’t miss it! One of his best yet most underrated films.
- 12AM Dial M For Murder ’54 When Ray Milland’s attempt to murder his own wife (played by Grace Kelly) goes awry, he thinks of another way to rid himself of her. Definitely worth watching.
- 2AM Niagara ’52 Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotten star in this tale of a dangerously seductive cheating wife planning to kill her volatile yet depressed husband (yes, there’s a theme tonight, can you tell?). A young couple honeymooning in the cottage next door find themselves entangled in the mess. That the Niagara Falls are also a star of the film adds much. Marilyn is incredibly alluring in this film, so it might not be one for the kiddos, but the Technicolor works its magic on Niagara, too.
- 3:45AM The Postman Always Rings Twice ’46 I’ve never actually seen this entire film, which is a shame, because it’s one of the great film noirs. Lovers John Garfield and Lana Turner get rid of her elderly husband—but may not find themselves able to escape justice.
Sunday, September 16 is a mix of films, though as you’ll see, it seems to have a bit of a travel theme, with the oddball exception of Frankenstein.
- 6AM The Last of Mrs. Cheyney ’37 Joan Crawford is a slick American jewel thief who finds herself in love with one of her intended victims in England. Also stars William Powell, Robert Montgomery, Nigel Bruce, and Frank Morgan. The cast alone has me intrigued (another one I’ve not ever seen), though I do enjoy Joan Crawford’s and William Powell’s performances.
- 8AM Anthony Adverse ’36 This is another one I’ve never seen that sounds very good. Fredric March stars as Anthony, an Italian orphan who falls in love with and marries Angela, played by Olivia de Havilland. But circumstances drive the couple apart; Anthony must overcome slave-trading, attempted murder, economic ruin, and Napoleon himself to return and find his love. The film also stars Claude Rains, Anita Louise, Ralph Morgan, Donald Woods, Luis Alberni, Edmund Gwenn, and Gale Sondergaard.
- 10:30AM Frankenstein ’31 This is the one. Record & save for Halloween week…if you can wait that long. This one is a real doozy, not at all the comic Frankenstein of trick-or-treating. Boris Karloff is in the title role, starring alongside Colin Clive, Mae Clark,, Frederick Kerr. TCM says “still impressive”, and they mean it.
- 1:45PM The Lady Eve ’41 Delightful comedy starring two of my favourites—Barbara Stanwyck and Charles Coburn—as con men on a cruise ship. Things start to go askew when Stanwyck falls for Henry Fonda’s snake-loving millionaire. One of the great comedies, directed by—no surprise—Preston Sturges. If you’ve never seen it, you are in for a treat!
Monday, Monday. You won’t believe this, but I can find only The Window at 1:45 in the morning interesting. Sigh.
If you love Garbo, you’ll be so happy Tuesday, September 18 is here—because TCM is running nothing but Garbo films throughout the day, at least ’til prime time! I don’t even really need to chatter, do I?
- 7:30AM The Flesh And The Devil ’26
- 9:30AM Love ’27 A modern retelling of Anna Karenina.
- 11AM A Woman of Affairs ’28
- 2:25PM Queen Christina ’33 The story of the Swedish queen who leaves her throne for the man she loves, many consider this to be Garbo’s best—and that’s saying something, when you’re talking Greta Garbo.
- 4:30PM Two-Faced Woman ’41 Garbo’s last film; also stars Melvyn Douglas and Constance Bennett.
- 9:45PM Smart Woman ’31 Mary Astor returns from a holiday to find her husband enamoured with a gold-digger. For some reason she wants him back, and feigns her own affair. Haven’t seen it, but you know I like Mary. Also stars John Halliday, Robert Ames, Ruth Weston.
- 3AM What Every Woman Knows ’34 The cast here has me interested, but the story sounds solid—Helen Hayes’ Maggie, a spinster at 26 (!), enters into a contract to marry a young housebreaker in five years based on certain conditions. John, the young man, becomes a politician, but Maggie is the brains behind the man. The film follows the couple through their journey to London, an affair, and national troubles. Also stars Donald Crisp, Lucile Watson, Brian Aherne, Madge Evans.
Wednesday, September 19 is John Garfield day. The actor has gained popularity in recent years, and has
many fans on Twitter, of all places, trying to improve his reputation as an actor. He always seems to play down-on-his-luck fellows—to say nothing of the fact that he must have done half a dozen movies with Priscilla Lane (whom I like very much) where he’s the ne’er-do-well and she’s the sweetheart who falls for the boy who just needs a good woman in his life, then pays the consequences for her goodheartedness—I get this latter cluster of films confused, in fact, having seen several of them. So, to be frank…Well, he’s a very good actor, excellent in film noir, but how versatile was he really? Did he ever play a nice guy? That isn’t a knock against Garfield—again, I always like his performances—but my exposure to his work is not that great and I seem to see him in the same type of role over and over. Perhaps you are in the same boat; today might be a good day to work on that!
- 7:45AM Dust Be My Destiny ’39 What was I just saying about John Garfield and Priscilla Lane? Well, here she is, playing a chain gang foreman’s daughter against Garfield as a jailed drifter. They are good together, that’s for sure. Leonard Maltin notes that this is “less-than-original material”, but also says that the actors overcome this fault. Alan Hale, Frank McHugh, Bobby Jordan, and John Litel also star.
- 9:15AM The John Garfield Story 2003 TCM documentary about Garfield.
- 1:35PM Out Of The Fog ’41 Garfield is a loan shark abusing the fishermen of Brooklyn to the point that they can only retaliate. At the same time, though, he falls in love with a fisherman’s daughter, played by Ida Lupino. Also stars Eddie Albert, Thomas Mitchell, Leo Gorcey.
- 3:15PM Dangerously They Live ’41 Okay, he DOES play a good guy here, and I’ve seen this one—it’s a pretty decent movie involving spies, Nazis, kidnapping, and romance. Garfield plays a doctor a bit nonplussed by a young woman’s claim that she has amnesia.
- 4:30PM Nobody Lives Forever ’46 Garfield plays a con man who falls in love with the wealthy widow whose riches he’s trying to take. Also stars Walter Brennan and Geraldine Fitzgerald. Do you kind of see what I mean, though?
- 6:15PM The Breaking Point ’50 A remake of Hemingway’s To Have And Have Not, Garfield here stars as the ship captain. Directed by Michael Curtiz, the film also stars Patricia Neal and Wallace Ford.
- 8PM How To Marry A Millionaire ’53 At 8, TCM turns things over to Star Of The Month Lauren Bacall. This comedy features Bacall with Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe, all three dames doing their best to catch worthy men. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this movie, but it’s a riot! Also stars William Powell.
- 9:45PM The Cobweb ’55 Vincente Minnelli directs a terrific cast in a tale of life and love at a mental hospital. Stars Lauren Bacall. Charles Boyer, Richard Widmark, Gloria Grahame, John Kerr, Susan Strasberg, Adele Jergens, and the fabulous Lillian Gish.
Whew! Boy, TCM should throw down a few bucks or a few DVDs for me, don’t you think? 😉