TCM & Work Wednesday

Closeup look at the Art Deco U-Drop-Inn and Tower Gas on Route 66 in Shamrock, TX. Copyright Jen Baker and Liberty Images Photography; all rights reserved.

U-Drop-Inn
Route 66, Shamrock, Texas, USA

Time for another look at TCM’s upcoming week and share a few of my recently-released photographic works. I do want to specially note a couple of films for you, though, that you may not have seen (Camille, of course, we’ve all seen, right?): The Old Maid Thursday morning; Dear Heart on Sunday at 10; and particularly A Light In The Piazza at 4AM Tuesday (Wednesday, really, but utilizing TCM’s scheduling protocol is nice). And if you’ve never seen Stella Dallas, it’s on at 6AM Sunday. Grab the tissues!

The remainder of my week is going to be extraordinarily busy for me, so I’ve put this together early and hope I’ve not messed anything up. I also hope you enjoy some of the trailers I’ve included! There was a little trouble getting them arranged neatly, and I apologize for that.

Thursday, October 18 must be Miriam Hopkins’ birthday, as daytime is filled with her films!

  • 9AM The Old Maid ’39    This terrific soaper, based on Edith Wharton’s novel, stars Bette Davis as a woman who gives her illegitimate child—its father lost in the war—to her cousin, played by Miriam Hopkins (who behaved rather outrageously on set in real life, as well). The two female stars of the film didn’t like each other very much in the first place, and yes, those fireworks do come through onscreen, and it fits perfectly. Both women are in love with the same man, played by George Brent, and vying for the love of daughter Tina (Jane Bryan, a real-life good friend of Bette) nearly from the moment the child is born. Also starring Donald Crisp, this is yet another great film from the year when Hollywood was at its absolute peak; one of Bette’s best performances ever, too, though it’s only fair to say that both actresses sparkle marvellously. Don’t miss it.
  • 2:30PM Old Acquaintance ’43    Bette and Miriam spar again in this one, here as childhood friends who’ve both become writers. Hopkins is a real piece of work in the movie, based on John Van Druten’s play. Dolores Moran also stars.

During prime time Thursday, TCM will be airing three specials about the Cinerama—the film process and the screen itself, beginning with Cinerama Adventure. As it turns out, filming this way made work difficult for the actors and actually dangerous for the filmmakers. At 9:45 TCM will air the original Cinerama introduction film, then re-screen Cinerama Adventure (’02) before screening the first major feature made with and for the unique (and expensive!) Cinerama production technique:

  • 2AM How The West Was Won ’62    Winner of eight Oscars (in the days when they still mattered), this is an enormous sprawling epic following three men and those around them as they try to tame—or at least get along with—the great American West. The all-star cast—Gregory Peck, Debbie Reynolds, Jimmy Stewart, Karl Malden, Henry Fonda, Carroll Baker, Lee Cobb, and John Wayne in a quick cameo and Spencer Tracy narrating every once in a while—costar with the West herself. The different storylines were directed by John Ford, George Marshall, and Henry Hathaway. Originally filmed for showings on the Cinerama—an enormous curved screen so big films for it had to be photographed using three cameras and then projected by three projectors—occasionally, you’ll see the seams, but not often; the photographers did a great job hiding these. Chock-full of crooks, mountain men, farmers, soldiers, trains and train fights, the story never gets too big for the viewer, because we are following three generations of a family and those they meet in the west, from the first journey west to the War Between The States and beyond. With all of its colourful characters, How The West Was Won is still the story of all of us—of our ancestors, those who went boldly forth into a very unhospitable, unwelcoming country. There’s adventure, romance, excitement, courage, heartbreak, tenacity, love won and lost in this one. If you don’t smile with a little pride at the end, I’m not sure what to do with you.

Director Richard Brooks is celebrated on Friday, October 19, at least ’til prime time.

  • 1PM Blackboard Jungle ’55    This one is famous, but I’ve not yet seen it: it’s the story of an idealistic teacher (aren’t they always?) dealing with difficult students and an even more difficult school system (some things never change). Glenn Ford, Sidney Poitier, Anne Frances star.
  • 8PM A Face In The Crowd ’57    I don’t need to say anything about this one, do I? Just watch it. Andy Griffith, Walter Matthau, Patricia Neal, Lee Remick, Burl Ives, Mike Wallace, Walter Winchell, Betty Furness, Anthony Franciosa.
  • 10:15PM The Glass Key ’42    A hit man and his boss come to odds over a woman—played in this case by Veronica Lake. Brian Donlevy is the hitman, Alan Ladd the gangster, and William Bendix the heavy. Bonita Granville and Richard Denning also star in this film, based on a Dashiell Hammett novel, that was reportedly the inspiration for Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, but it’s just plain good.
  • 11:45PM Flamingo Road ’49    A carnival dancer left behind in a small town, Joan Crawford falls for a good man (the sheriff’s deputy, in fact), marries a decent one, and never stops tangling with corrupt politicians (hmmmm…). Directed by Michael Curtiz, this kind of soapy drama also stars Zachary Scott, the fabulous Sidney Greenstreet, Gladys George, David Brian, and Gertrude Michael. No Mildred Pierce or Possessed, but solid just the same; this one kept Joan’s career alive for a few more years.

Saturday, October 20 has a lot of movies to choose from!

  • 6AM Red Dust ’32    Really, the Victor Fleming-directed cast alone should get you to watch: Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Mary Astor, Donald Crisp, Gene Raymond, Willie Fung, and Tully Marshall. Clark Gable is fending off wrong-side-of-the-tracks Harlow and the ever-elegant (but never so much that she refuses to fight for a man she wants) Astor, all while working a rubber plantation. That famed clip of Jean Harlow bathing in a rain barrel comes from this film. All of the performances are fine, but Harlow’s especially shines—and this is all the more amazing when we consider that her husband committed suicide (some say he was murdered) during filming. The studio wanted Tallulah Bankhead to take over for Jean, but Bankhead refused and Jean returned, turning in another terrific performance. Red Dust was remade as Mogambo in ’54, with Gable playing against Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly, but in my opinion, it’s not as good as the original.
  • 9AM Isle Of The Dead ’45    Stranded on a desert island and under quarantine to boot…and someone on the island might be a vampire! Eeeeek! Or…it’s the plague. Just sounds like fun (and delightfully creepy to boot). Boris Karloff, Ellen Drew, and Jason Robards Sr. star.
  • 10:15AM The Revenge of Frankenstein ’58   Dr. Frankenstein escapes execution for his crimes and returns to his unholy experimentation on the dead in a Carlsbruck hospital in this sequel to The Curse of Frankenstein. In this film, the focus is on the doctor himself, not his experiments, so it should be interesting indeed. There look to be a few clever laughs in the script, but here we see Dr.
    Coral 1960 Dodge Polara classic car at a car show. Copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images Photography; all rights reserved

    “Hi-Fi”
    A sharp ’60 Polara! Love that grille…and the trim!

    Frankenstein develop as a character and get a closer look at his intentions. Peter Cushing plays Frankenstein, and beautifully so based on what I’ve read; also starring are Eunice Grayson, Francis Matthews, Lionel Jeffries, and Michael Gwynn.

  • 3:30PM Birdman of Alcatraz ’62    Burt Lancaster gives a superb performance as Robert Stroud—truly superb. He makes a really, really bad man seem like a sweetheart (as I learned when looking Stroud up after seeing this for the first time—the difference between the real Stroud and the one portrayed by Lancaster is astounding even for Hollywood). Karl Malden and Thelma Ritter also star.
  • 6:15PM The Prisoner of Zenda ’52   First made with the great Ronald Colman in the lead, the 1952 version stars Stewart Granger as a dead ringer for the king of a nation he happens to be visiting—the kidnapped king. Intrigue and romance, of course, follow. Though the Colman version is far superior, this is still fun to watch, though that may be due to the fact that Stewart Granger inexplicably cracks me up every time I see him, so I spend most of this movie giggling away at Granger. Poor fella. Also stars Deborah Kerr, Louis Calhern, Lewis Stone, James Mason, Jane Greer, and Robert Douglas.
  • 8PM Camille ’36    Ask a Garbo fan which is her favourite move, and many will name this one, where the great Garbo plays a courtesan who makes the mistake of falling in love for real—and chases after it, with heartbreaking results. Robert Taylor is her costar, and not yet the stentorian yelling man he becomes in the 50s; Henry Daniell is fantastic as the villain! Lionel Barrymore also stars. Grab the tissues, some chocolates, and settle in for a good one.
  • 10PM Gigi ’58    Despite Vincente Minnelli’s direction and the fine performances of many of the cast, I have a hard time liking Gigi; this is most likely because I’ve never been a Leslie Caron fan (also inexplicable, though I must say I enjoy American In Paris—but then, Gene trumps about everything). Even so, the score alone for this musical makes it worth at least listening to, thanks to Lerner & Loewe. It IS beautifully filmed, that’s for sure—the photography is perfect.
  • 3:45AM Lola Montes’55    I’ve never seen this one, but it’s
    Golden Flags

    “Golden Flags”
    Even 35MPH winds don’t keep me from at least trying.

    fairly renown. Once a famed beauty, Martine Carol is now reduced to circus performer, and spends much time pondering the men she’s loved in years gone by. Peter Ustinov and Oskar Werner also star.

Sunday, October 21—10 days ’til Halloween. Have your goodies to pass out yet? 😉 TCM has some fine one for the crumb crunchers in prime time this night—all animation, beginning with a classic tale of travel and adventure.

  • 6AM Stella Dallas ’37    One of Barbara Stanwyck’s best performances—she herself thought it the best—is as the initially self-centered and foolish title character in this King Vidor-directed tragi-drama about a woman who tries to create a better life for her beloved daughter. Despite production troubles and trepidation about Stanwyck’s fit in the role, the film was a box-office smash for Sam Goldwyn, garnering Academy Award nominations for Stanwyck and Anne Shirley (who portrays her daughter). A classic, and one not to be missed. Costarring Alan Hale, John Boles, Tim Holt (sorry, not Steve Holt!), and Barbara O’Neil.
  • 10AM Dear Heart ’64    One of the few post-1950s movies I really love, it’s this film that got me thinking about doing this blog feature in the first place! A rather unlikely romance between a postmistress and an engaged salesman springs up in NYC amidst a postmaster’s convention. I said “unlikely”, right? Adding to this movie’s charm is that the leads are both middle aged: Geraldine Page and Glenn Ford. It’s certainly a movie that could never be made today, as the female lead would be played by a 23 year-old to the male lead’s 60 year-old, and that makes Dear Heart even better (and, dare I say, more realistic). Now, Ford’s character Harry is a cad at first, and Page’s Evie has issues of her own; the beatnik stepson-to-be, desperate for fatherly guidance, chases Harry down; Angela Lansbury is a doozy as the fiancee. But somehow, it all works, and you can’t help but find yourself charmed by this Henry Mancini-scored romance. Overall, it’s a very sweet, enjoyable movie: no message, just a good story—with an especially good performance by Page, one that is a very close look at her response to her realization that she’s falling in love with Harry. Also starring Barbara Nichols, as well as the fab funny trio of Mary Wickes, Ruth McDevitt, and Alice Pearce as a trio of fellow postmistresses.
  • 2PM The Pink Panther’64    Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau squares off
    Smithville, TN

    I had to find something with pink in it to go with “The Pink Panther”, you know.
    The Bridgeway Motel, Smithville, TN, USA.

    against the smooth David Niven’s man about town and secret jewel thief, Sir Charles Litton, in this fashionable first of a series of films. Litton seeks a famed jewel—named The Pink Panther—from the possession of a princess and time and again thwarts the bumbling French inspector. Though the Panther is a jewel, and not the inspector, Henry Mancini’s marvellous theme for this movie was immediately and forever shall be associated with him—and the rose-hued cartoon feline bearing the same name! Also starring the very lovely Capucine, Robert Wagner, and Claudia Cardinale.

  • 6PM The Man From Laramie ’55    “Shootin’s too good for ya.” My favourite, Jimmy Stewart, is a man seeking revenge for the murder of his brother. Though he often played the handsome, tuxedoed (if somewhat shy) lead to many a great beauty during the 30s, after entering middle age (and most notably, after his service to the country during WWII), James Stewart really did well in Westerns—leaving behind the dapper, soft-edged and dewy youth for a more and more ruggedly masculine adult with steely eyes, and one who knew how to carry a rifle well at that. Anthony Mann, one of the fine noir directors, managed to translate similarly hardboiled stories to the great American West; in this one, he is rumoured to have brought Shakespeare’s King Lear to that vast and unforgiving landscape. Stewart butts heads with a rancher running a town—and his two sons, one of whom is psychotic and unnervingly sadistic. Also stars Donald Crisp, Alex Nicol, the fab Aline MacMahon, Arthur Kennedy, and lovely Cathy O’Donnell in this last of the Stewart-Mann collaborations.
  • 8PM Gulliver’s Travels ’39     Few of us who saw this animated version as children can forget it! Yes, it’s not that well-written, and we can all see some elements stolen from animation titan Walt Disney in this, but it’s still fun to watch. And it’s animation all the way down the schedule tonight.

Monday, October 22

  • 6AM Quality Street ’37    Cleverly funny and neatly written, this whimsical romance was a dud when released and nearly killed Katharine Hepburn’s career. She plays a woman seeking revenge on a former suitor by pretending to be her own niece. Based on James M. Barrie play, it put Katharine in yet another period piece—and audiences didn’t like seeing her in these. Also starring Joan Fontaine, Bonita Granville, Franchot Tone, Estelle Winwood.
  • 11:30AM The Constant Nymph, ’43    Joan Fontaine’s farm girl falls deeply in love with composer Charles Boyer—who marries another woman (Alexis Smith) before realizing he is in love with Fontaine in this romance based on Margaret Kennedy’s novel. This was Fontaine’s favourite from all her work. Her performance sees her changing from a young girl to a grown woman, and led to her third Oscar nomination in four years—impressive indeed for a 25 year-old actress! TCM calls this one “intensely romantic”. Also stars Charles Coburn, Brenda Marshall, Dame May Whitty, Peter Lorre, Jean Muir, and Joyce Reynolds.
  • 3:15PM The Bigamist ’53    Someone on Twitter has raved about this film, one directed by actress Ida Lupino (who also stars). A lonely travelling salesman with a barren ice-queen wife at home falls in love with and marries a waitress, too—just as his first wife’s father dies even as she continues longing for a child. Not at all sexy—this is a sober look at a difficult and sad topic with no tawdriness at all about a man in love with two women. Joan Fontaine is the co-star—and she and Ida in fact had been involved in a similar situation with one another; The Bigamist‘s screenwriter, Collier Young, had been married to Lupino, but divorced her and quickly married Fontaine (Lupino remarried as well). And just as Fontaine found she wasn’t too keen on married life, her role as Eve in this film reflects that; Lupino, playing the waitress, was happily married. Good drama with great actors; in addition to birthday girl Fontaine and Lupino, you have Kenneth Tobey, Edmund Gwenn, Edmord O’Brien, and Jane Darwell.
  • 8PM Woman Of The Year ’42    Spencer Tracy and real-life-love Katharine Hepburn play opposites inexorably attracted to one another in this romantic comedy. Their very different careers and lives are much at odds with each other, and Katharine—a famed political commentator to Tracy’s sportswriter—must choose between work and love. Hilarious scene where Tracy tries to explain baseball to his bride.
Neon arrow sign for the U-Drop-Inn, Shamrock, Texas, USA, Route 66. Copyright Liberty Images/Jen Baker, all rights reserved.

Simple but perfect! Neon arrow for the U-Drop-Inn of Shamrock, Texas.

Tuesday, October 23 is yet another day dedicated to Star of the Month Spencer Tracy:

  • 11:45AM Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo ’44    Spencer Tracy shows up as General Doolittle, who trained American troops for the first airborne strikes on Japan during WWII. An exciting war film also starring Van Johnson, Tim Murdock, Robert Walker, Robert Mitchum, and Scott McKay.
  • 2:30PM The Seventh Cross ’44    I caught the end of this once, and was most sad to have missed its beginning. It follows seven men who’ve escaped from a Nazi concentration camp only to find the Gestapo chasing them. Starring Spencer Tracy, Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn, Signe Hasso, Agnes Moorehead, George Zucco, Felix Brassart.
  • 4:30PM Father’s Little Dividend ’51    It’s rare that sequels to popular films are truly enjoyable, but this follow-up to Father Of The Bride is sweet indeed. Spencer Tracy’s darling daughter, played by Elizabeth Taylor, is pregnant and dealing with the trials of early marriage to boot, while her dear old Pops is coming to terms with being “Grandpa”. Joan Bennett, Don Taylor, and Billie Burke also come back in this cute comedy.
  • 4AM Light In The Piazza ’62    Caught this tale of motherly love and romance one late night and found it rather interesting. Olivia de Havilland is travelling through her daughter (played with perfect, charming lightness by Yvette Mimieux—you almost fall in love with her yourself), trying to find a suitable husband for the girl—all while struggling with a family secret about her daughter and her husband’s future plans. It is a very interesting character (and cultural) study, to say nothing of a look back into how those with developmental challenges were looked at and often dealt with not so long ago. de Havilland’s love for and efforts to give a good life to—and protect—her daughter are compelling; another wonderful performance from this fine, fine actress. Yes, that is George Hamilton playing a passionate young Italian; Rossano Brazzi <align=”right”> also stars. Shot on location in beautiful Rome and Florence, including scenes in the Uffizi Gallery! A beautiful, sensitive film MGM was rightly proud of. Yes, 4AM—DVR it!

Daytime on Wednesday, October 24 is filled with films based on the works of Somerset Maugham.

  • 8:45AM The Letter ’29    I’m quite familiar with the 1940 remake of this starring Bette Davis, but here’s the original, starring Jeanne Eagels and Reginald Owen. Love, betrayal, and murder in a sea of rubber plantations makes for one heck of a tale when a woman murders her lover—also a neighbor—and spins quite a web in order to cover up the deed. Based on Somerset Maugham’s play, this is the only surviving film starring Eagels, a famed actress who died not long after shooting for The Letter wrapped; even so, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance.
  • 11AM Rain ’32    This sounds familiar—I may have seen it, but don’t quite remember (alas). Walter Huston plays a preacher trying to turn a South Seas streetwalker—played by Joan Crawford—to the light, only to terribly violate her trust later. During filming, Crawford went through a personal hell; not only were the film’s other castmembers rude to her, the director was difficult, and not only was her marriage with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. on the rocks, the baby she learned she was carrying just before leaving to film the movie was lost when she slipped on a ship’s deck. Even so, she reportedly turns in a fine—and edgy—performance here. Guy Kibbe, Beulah Bondi also star.
  • 12:45PM Our Betters ’33    Comedy based on a British lord who marries a wealthy American girl. Constance Bennett, Gilbert Roland, and Anita Louise star in this George Cukor-directed cautionary tale about relying on appearances.

And that’s next week! Happy DVRing. 😉 As always, if you see a photo you like and would enjoy having a copy of your own—all of my photos are limited editions—please drop me a line!

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One thought on “TCM & Work Wednesday

  1. Wow Jen, You’ve seen a lot of movies. I’m going to record ‘Dear Heart’ because I’m a big fan of Angela Lansbury and you’re so right about the imbalance of age in the modern day Hollywood romps…..so unrealistic. I also remember the Pink Panthers at the drive-in’s when we were kids. Blankets, snacks and that music, so fun. I must record that and finally ‘Woman of the Year’, I just adore watching Tracy & Hepburn. Wouldn’t they’ve have been great dinner guests? Have a great week, thanks for the reviews!

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