Are you big on Black Friday shopping? It really isn’t for me; I prefer to spend the day putting up the Christmas tree and other decorations. Being trampled isn’t my idea of fun, no matter how great the deal. While I wouldn’t consider myself an anti-consumerist (I do sell my photography, after all!), the bizarre frenzies I see on television, lately resulting in peoples’ deaths, befuddles and frustrates me…especially since we know that many of those deals are being snapped up for the shopper, not as a gift. I’m all for saving money and exercising thrift, but something about the Black Friday rush seems really weird to me. Somebody please tell me I’m not the only one!
At any rate, this Black Friday I’ll probably be doing the usual thing—decorating for Christmas, no doubt with “help” from the pets, maybe baking a cake. Besides…online shopping is the best thing ever when it comes to Christmas, at least for the gifts I’m not making myself (there are a few things up my sleeve, but of course sharing them now would be rather counterproductive). How about you? What are your Thanksgiving and weekend plans? I have to say…so soon after losing Grandpa, I am not feeling ready for all of the insanity tomorrow, though Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays (Independence Day being first and foremost). Someone will probably be making an early escape from dinner tomorrow, let’s just say that.
Well, let’s take a look at a few films worth seeing on TCM in the next week for those of us who prefer to stay in the safety of our own homes. 😉
Tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day in the US, starts out with “God’s Little Acre”, but after that, TCM has a solid lineup of, fittingly enough, very family-friendly movies everyone can enjoy as they help with dinner or cozy up with family on the sofa. They’re all good movies, really! Just set the DVR and flip them on while you wrap gifts and bake. 😉
- 8:45AM Anne of Green Gables ’34 Anne Shirley plays Anne Shirley in this early adaptation of L.M. Montgomery’s beloved story about a spitfire of an orphan adopted by an elderly couple—who’d been expecting a boy to help around the farm.
- 12PM Lassie Come Home ’43 Of COURSE I love this one, being the ‘mom’ of a (handsome) collie now and having grown up with one when I was a girl. After her family found themselves forced to sell her, courageous, loyal Lassie embarks upon a grueling and remarkable journey to return to those who loved her so. Have the tissues ready, because you’re going to need them. If you don’t get at least a little choked up or misty-eyed, I fear you hate dogs, you hate life, you have no faith in miracles, or all three. I’m just saying. Starring Roddy McDowall, Donald Crisp, Dame May Whitty, and a young and charming Liz Taylor in her first screen appearance.
- 4PM The Secret Garden ’49 I’ve had a soft spot for this story since reading Burnett’s book as a girl; it was a treat for me when in high school, I played Lily in our performances of the Broadway musical based on the same tale. Something about flowers and English gardens lies not-so-latent within me, no doubt! This movie version star the darling Margaret O’Brien as the orphan brought to her absent uncle’s English estate after her parents die in India. Left to her own devices, she finds a garden locked away…and with it, changes the lives of everyone at the estate, herself included. Dean Stockwell, Herbert Marshall, Elsa Lanchester also star.
- 8PM Cheaper By The Dozen ’50 Sweet and heartwarming classic starring Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy as the parents of, yes, a dozen children at the turn of the century. You’ll probably get a little choked up near the end, but it is altogether a happy tale.
- 9:30PM Sitting Pretty ’48 Full disclosure: I adore the stunningly beautiful Maureen O’Hara, to whom I am almost certainly related (being an O’Hara on my mother’s side). But this comedy really is worth watching; it features Clifton Webb as the Sheldon Cooper of the postwar period, a man hired to be a full-time babysitter for a couple (O’Hara and Robert Young) on the rocks in a town riddled with gossip. Since Webb is a writer, too, you can imagine what happens next. Very, very funny, due in large part to Webb’s serene brilliance as Mr. Lynn Belvedere; this spawned several more Mr. Belvedere movies.
- 12:45AM Please Don’t Eat the Daisies ’60 I adore Doris Day, too, and she’s delightful as ever in as the wife of NYC drama critic David Niven as the family makes the shift from city to country life. Yes, the marvellously talented Doris sings, too. What’s not to love?
- 2:45AM Life With Father ’47 William Powell must learn to loosen up a bit in another turn-of-the-century family story. The beautiful Irene Dunne is his good-tempered wife keeping the couple’s boys in line (or at least trying to). ZaSu Pitts, Liz Taylor, Edmund Gwenn also star in this darling movie.
Friday, November 23 is dedicated to some of the work of director Alfred Hitchcock. These will still be less frightening and less unnerving than whatever is going on at your local shopping center.
- 10AM Strangers On A Train ’51 I hope you’ve watched this by now. One of Hitchcock’s best yet most underrated films. I’ll take this over “The Birds” any day of the year. Robert Walker’s performance as a man on the edge of sanity is superb.
- 11:45AM The Wrong Man ’56 Saw this a few years ago, and it’s pretty good. Henry Fonda (the only talented member of that family, in my opinion) is falsely accused of a brutal robbery; this documentary-style movie shows us the ripple of destruction Fonda’s life that follows.
- 1:45PM North By Northwest ’59 Cary Grant. James Mason. Eva Marie Saint. What more do you want? Oh, fine: remarkable photography and a score nearly as exciting as the movie itself.
- 4:15PM Suspicion ’41 Joan Fontaine thinks her husband, Cary Grant, is trying to kill her. Cedric Hardwicke, Nigel Bruce, Dame May Whitty also star in this suspense film that allowed Fontaine to earn an Academy Award. I do agree with Maltin’s assertion that the end is a bit off, but still a good movie.
- 6PM Dial ‘M’ For Murder ’54 Ray Milland’s plot to murder his wife—played by Grace Kelly—goes awry—so he frames her for murder instead. Terrific, entertaining story; I love John Williams as the thoughtful inspector trying to put together some of the odd pieces in the murder case. Robert Cummings also stars, but Kelly is so graceful even in her puzzlement and Milland so diabolical and manipulative you sort of forget about him. Sorry, Bob!
Saturdays on TCM always seem weird to me—a smorgasbord of adventure, mystery, and kiddie-friendly movies. This isn’t bad, of course, but it is what it is. Now that winter’s here, though, I hope they start throwing us a few very good films in daytime for those of us in the cold-and snow-bound North! This Saturday is the usual—until prime time, that is.
- 1:15PM The Adventures of Robin Hood ’38 Ahhhh. One of the best adventure films of all time, with a sparkling cast to boot: Errol Flynn is the hero of Sherwood Forest and England herself; Olivia de Havilland the winsome Maid Marian; Claude Rains as the fiendish prince; Basil Rathbone as Rains’ dueling champion; Alan Hale as the best Little John on film, and ditto for Eugene Pallette as Friar Tuck; Una O’Connor as Marian’s lady-in-waiting…And yes, that’s Roy Rogers’ Trigger as Maid Marian’s beautiful palomino horse. It doesn’t stop—the cherry on top of a fine script and terrific performances being that this was filmed in glorious, brilliant Technicolor. Can’t be beat.
- 8PM Jezebel ’38 Bette Davis’ Southern belle engages in a rebellion of her own, one which nearly dismantles her whole world. She won an Oscar for her performance in this fascinating movie, and rightly so. Henry Fonda is the man she loves—and deeply offends. Also stars George Brent, Margaret Lindsay, Donald Crisp, Fay Bainter; directed by the great William Wyler. Such a good movie! Bette had been considered for the role of Scarlett O’Hara, but of course Vivien Leigh ended up with (and excelled, really) in that role; it all worked out, though, because Bette was perfectly cast in Jezebel.
- 10PM Ben-Hur ’59 William Wyler directed this edition of Lew Wallace’s novel (the best-selling novel of all time ’till Gone With The Wind toppled it from the list) is an epic in every single sense of the word, and one of those movie’s it is hard for me to turn away from. Charlton Heston is the title character, a Jewish prince whose life is horrifically disrupted by none other than his best friend, Messala (Stephen Boyd), a man unswervingly loyal to Rome; the men become bitter enemies as a result. The thread of hatred and desire for revenge plays against the teachings of Jesus Christ, Who begins His ministry contemporary to these two men. The chariot race is of course the most famous scene in the film, though of course the galley-slave portion is superb; even so, my favourite part, one which unfailingly leaves me crying, is when we see the hand of Christ tipping a cup of desperately needed water to the lips of dying Ben-Hur. This movie swept the Academy Awards with a record eleven Oscars—every one well-earned. Lovely score, too.
- 2AM Mrs. Miniver ’42 One of the most gorgeous women in the world, Greer Garson, is marvellous in the title role; this film watches a British family trying to survive the first weeks of World War II. Wyler’s film earned six Oscars (including one for Garson, and Best Picture)—and was so taken to heart in the US that it rallied support for our British allies during the war prior to our entry. Walter Pidgeon, Dame May Whitty, Teresa Wright, Reginald Owen, Peter Lawford, Henry Travers also star.
Sunday is full of good movies (the sort of lineup I’d rather see on Saturday so I can listen & watch as I sew!).
- 8:30AM Top Hat ’35 Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers square—and dance—off in an elegant tale of love, mistaken identity, and even a little international travel. Solid script, dancing, good humour, and delicious costumery—to say nothing of the cast’s performances and swoon-inducing music—have made this a perennial favourite. Lucille Ball is seen for a moment as the flower shop girl.
- 10:15AM The Winning Team ’52 Good drama starring Ronald Reagan as Grover Cleveland Alexander, a baseball player who struggles to make his way back to the top of the sport after an injury—both a physical injury and the mental and emotional damage that result. Doris Day is his supportive wife. Real life baseball stars show up, so this is a treat if you love old-time baseball.
- 12PM The Women ’39 Why anyone attempted to remake this—especially with such a skin-deep cast—is utterly beyond me, because this is as good as it gets for an all-woman movie. It’s near perfection, thanks to a witty, tight script, sumptuous costumes, fine sets, and best of all, the bewitchingly perfect performances from some of the best actresses to ever step in front of a camera—Norma Shearer! Joan Crawford! Ros Russell! Paulette Goddard! Joan Fontaine! Mary Boland! Marjorie Main! Ruth Hussey! Hedda Hopper! Butterfly McQueen! Lucile Watson! Great balls of fire—you can’t possibly lose. Don’t miss this if you’ve never seen it. The colour of the year—Jungle Red!
- 2:30PM Cat On A Hot Tin Roof ’58 Excellent film adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ play about lies, lies, and more lies and a family caught in their web. Exceptional performances from Liz Taylor at her most alluring, Paul Newman, Burl Ives, Judith Anderson, and Jack Carson.
- 4:30PM The Mortal Storm ’40 Not a carnival ride, this often-overlooked film is one I truly wish more people were familiar with. So dangerously accurate (while managing never to be overbearing or maudlin) that it resulted in Goebbels and Hitler banning all of MGM’s films from Germany (a fine endorsement, if you ask me), it lets us watch as the Third Reich literally tears a family apart. Jimmy Stewart is a quiet but stalwart young man in love with Freya (Margaret Sullavan), the daughter of a non-Aryan professor (Frank Morgan) doing his best to thwart the Reich’s lies about “undesireables”, refusing to agree that there are differences in the blood of Aryans and non-Aryans. After being sent to a concentration camp for his “crime”, he impels his family to try to escape to Austria. This movie is so, so good, with very sensitive, genuine, and compelling performances. Please, please watch it—we are always but one generation away from another such danger to human liberty. Robert Young and Robert Stack are Freya’s Third Reich-loving fiance and brother; Irene Rich is the professor’s wife; Maria Ouspenskaya (I love her) plays Jimmy Stewart’s mother and Bonita Granville is disarmingly sweet as a family friend who pays for her attempted loyalty.
- 6:30PM The Steel Trap ’52 Bored with his predictable life, bank employee Joseph Cotten creates and then actually puts into action his plan to steal a million dollars from his bank, then flee with his family to a country which would not extradite him. Having gotten the money on a Friday, though, he has a tremendous change of heart and mind—and must find a way to return the money without being caught by Monday morning. I suppose that doesn’t sound like much, but this is remarkably suspenseful and gripping, not the least because Joe Cotten is, let’s face it, pretty awesome. Teresa Wright co-stars as his innocent wife.
- 8PM Pride And Prejudice ’40 This is my favourite (and in my opinion, the best) adaptation of Austen’s beloved novel about husband-hunting in 19th-century England, departing from the book or no; they got the idea right (I can’t believe I am saying that, but there you are). Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier, Edna May Oliver, Edmund Gwenn, Mary Boland, Maureen O’Sullivan, Karen Morley, Ann Rutherford, and Marsha Hunt all turn in wonderful performances, but Garson is especially fine; standing around with one’s mouth half-open and eyes vaguely squinting into the middle distance doesn’t pass for acting in my book, and you won’t see such banality here. Believe it or not, Aldous Huxley was one of the screenwriters. Beautifully photographed, too. More sumptuous lives are lived than Austen wrote about, but this is40s Hollywood.
Tuesday, November 27 Too bad Robert Taylor is yelling at everyone throughout “Ivanhoe” at 11, eh?
- 1PM Wuthering Heights ’39 This IS the best adaptation of Bronte’s novel of ill-fated love. Merle Oberon is transfixed by Laurence Olivier, but married to David Niven—oh, we all know the story. Donald Crisp, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Flora Robson also star.
- 9:30PM Wild Bill Hickok Rides ’42 I’ve never seen this, but the idea of angel-faced Constance Bennett in a Western (in this one, a man seeks justice for his murdered best friend, murdered by a malevolent land baron) is intriguing. Stars Warren William and Bruce Cabot as “Wild Bill” Hickok. The trailer sure makes it look like a rollicking good time! 😉
Wednesday, November 28 is Gloria Grahame’s birthday, and TCM is celebrating with a daytime lineup of some of her films.
- 7:15AM Crossfire ’47 An anti-Semitic soldier suffering from postwar depression and his damaged marriage leads Washington, DC police on a chase as they attempt to solve the murder of a Jewish man. The sensitive issue of anti-Semitism is well-handled. Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan (Robert trifecta!) Gloria Grahame star.
- 2:45PM The Big Heat ’53 Gloria Grahame is the gangster’s moll who eventually turns against her man and helps police detective Glenn Ford bring a strongman down. Exploding cars, coffee-hurling, murder, a bad girl who falls for the good but now-damaged man—a noir of the first order. This may be one of Grahame’s best performances—she plays your heartstrings, that’s for sure. Ford has great presence, too, as a man bent on justice; another superb performance from him. Also stars Lee Marvin in yet another terrific turn as a bad guy.
- 8PM The Time Machine ’60 End the night with some sci-fi! It’s a bit cheesy, but still fun to watch (the Morlocks in this one left me afraid to sleep for a little while when I was a girl); for 1960, the special effects are pretty good, and in fact won the movie an Oscar! Rod Taylor, Alan Young, Yvette Mimieux star.
That’s next week. Enjoy, and have a great Thanksgiving!