Happy Wednesday! There are some good movies coming up on TCM in the next week. They’ve not started screening Christmas flicks yet, but I’m very excited to see one of my very favourite actresses as Star Of The Month—Barbara Stanwyck! No doubt we’ll get to see both “Christmas In Connecticut” and “Remember The Night” closer to Christmas;
no worries, I’ll let you know when they air, as both are delightful Christmas movies only as the 40s could offer them.
On a personal note, I’m very happy to say I finally have my Christmas tree up and decorated (usually it’s up by the day after Thanksgiving, but this year it has been hectic). Having that pretty, sparkling tree glowing in the library has done a lot to lift my spirits, though I did sit in the chair, crying, when I pulled out the Christmas ornament Grandma and Grandpa gave me the Christmas before I was born. On the back, Grandpa Shorty had written, “For Baby-To-Be” in his oh-so-familiar crabbed handwriting—writing I loved seeing in the mail, as he and I corresponded regularly (both of us had difficulty hearing over the phone, due to both of our spending years in musical groups!) until the arthritis made writing letters a little too difficult for him this past year (after which we just chatted on the phone and mailed torn-out-of-magazines recipes and garden articles to one another).
I will miss fresh instances of that handwriting so, so much—but every year, that ornament is the prized piece on my tree (though they gave all of the grandkids a Christmas ornament yearly ’til Grandma passed away). Now it is even more so. So, truly, Christmas and all of its associations will be very bittersweet this year—the third will be a whole month since we have lost him. It has been very odd, and is still a bit hard to believe—but I’ve picked up the phone to call him a few times, and the reality hits hard, knocking my heart out of my chest for a few moments. Surely the brokenness will pass, but as my neighbor said—time doesn’t really heal the wound, it just dulls the pain a bit. I think he is right, but to have that pain testifies to the great love we have, and will always have, for others in our lives even after they are gone from this earth.
Well, thank you for putting up with my pontificating and rambling. Writing seems to be my only way to work such things out! Let’s take a look at what TCM has to offer next week, shall we?
Thursday, November 29 offers a couple of very good westerns and one of my favourite comedies.
- 2PM The Ox-Bow Incident ’43 Murder, lynch mobs, and tyrannical mob rule sweep a town weary of cattle rustling and a loner up in their wake in a movie that possibly inspired 12 Angry Men years later. Loners Henry Fonda and Henry (later Harry) Morgan turn up in town just in time to see the lynch mob swinging into action. Dana Andrews and Anthony Quinn are the accused. Great performances.
- 3:30PM The Searchers ’56 Classic, classic western—for one thing, look at the marquee: John Ford directs John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Ward Bond, Natalie Wood, Vera Miles and more in the great American West. The story itself is difficult enough to fathom happening to any of us—a tribe of Indians has massacred a man’s family and kidnapped his niece. But the script, which covers years, is so fantastic—Searchers is a no-holds-barred, complex, intimate look at how events can shape and warp us, at revenge, at race—all set against the most barren, unforgiving parts of the West. At times, it’s hard to watch (due to the subject matter, not lack of quality, believe me)—but don’t give up on it. Ford and Wayne especially did magnificent work in this one.
- 1:30AM Ninotchka ’39 This comedy is probably my favourite Garbo movie, despite her many fine performances—she’s utterly delightful as a Soviet agent almost literally thawed out by Melvyn Douglas while on a state mission in Paris. The script is almost (not quite, but almost) perfect, though the hat is pretty awful. The exceptional supporting cast—Ina Claire, Bela Lugosi, Sig Ruman, Felix Brassart, Alexandar Granach, and Richard Carle—do such, such a great job, several of them becoming lovable themselves. A true gem from Hollywood’s best year ever.
Friday, November 30 is a bit thin—but the highlight I’ve picked is a very good one, so it makes up for some of the flicks I’ve not as much interest in!
- 12:30PM White Heat ’39 One of Cagney’s best gangster performances despite his older age, the finale to this one is legendary (and a shocker indeed if you’re unfamiliar with the movie). Psychotic with a severe obsession with his mother, Cagney’s gangster in this one is about as nihilistic as they come—but it sure makes for a great movie. Virginia Mayo also stars. Oh, Cagney was just so awesome. One of the best in the biz.
- 12PM The Saint Takes Over ’40 George Sanders is Simon Templar, this time helping a framed policeman.
- 3PM The Ladykillers ’55 I figure it’s Alec Guinness in another black comedy, so it has to be entertaining!
- 2AM The Long, Long Trailer ’64 Lucy and Desi are honeymooning in a newly-bought big rig, traveling across the country in a comedy beloved by RVers and road trippers. Having grown up going camping in increasingly impressive RVs, there’s a lot I can identify with and thus be amused by in this cutie, though it’s loved by many no matter their camping background. Marjorie Main and everyone’s sidekick Keenan Wynn show up, too.
- 12PM The Glass Key ’42 Good suspense movie involving hit men, gangsters, and murder charges—to say nothing of a beautiful woman coming between two friends. Brian Donlevy, Veronica Lake, Alan Ladd, Bonita Granville star.
- 6PM Hang ‘Em High ’68 Wrongly accused of murder and theft, Clint Eastwood’s Jed Cooper is hanged and left to die by a nine-man posse—but after he’s rescued, Cooper decides a judge’s order that his accusers be put on trial is permission to hunt the men down himself. Also starring Ed Begley, Ben Johnson, and Bruce Dern this particular Western is not just a treat for the eyes (parts were filmed at White Sands National Park in the great Route 66 state of New Mexico), but a well-done exploration of mob-administered capital punishment and of revenge.
- 8PM Baby Peggy, The Elephant in the Room ’10 This documentary is airing for the first time (I believe) on TCM. The filmmaker, after finding a postcard featuring child star Baby Peggy, began learning more about the first child movie star. Archival footage from the few remaining Baby Peggy movies (most were lost when the star’s studio burned in 1926) and an interview with the actress herself—one of the last living silent film stars (Mickey Rooney being another)—to say nothing of her story, suggest this should be fascinating. Now known as film historian Diana Serra Cary, the tiny little actress was making a whopping $1.5 million a year in 1924, when she was but six years old—yet by the 1930s, she was impoverished and struggling to find work as an extra thanks to her parents’ spendthrift ways and her father’s argument with a producer. I’m looking forward to seeing this.
Following the Baby Peggy documentary, TCM will screen her surviving films beginning at 9PM, starting with 1924’s “Captain January”. “Carmen Jr.” (1923) follows at 10:15, “Such Is LIfe” (1924) at 10:30, and “Peg o’ the Mounted” (1924) screens at 11, following a repeat of the documentary.
- 12PM If You Could Only Cook ’35 Another movie I’ve not seen, but it sounds cute (plus it stars Jean Arthur): an automobile tycoon decides to take a gig as a butler for the heck of it after pretty and penniless Jean asks him to pretend to be her husband so they can pose as a married maid-butler team and get jobs, which they do—for a local mob boss. Of course, screwball hijinks and romance ensue. Leo Carillo is the mobster and Herbert Marshall the wealthy tycoon posing as a butler.
Wednesday, December 5 is stacked with a bunch of movies I’ve never, ever seen—but wraps up with the first night featuring Star of the Month Barbara Stanwyck, who is very possibly my favourite actress.
- 10:30AM They Live By Night ’49 Farley Granger and “Best Years of Our Lives” actress Cathy O’Donnell (according to the movie, two teenagers “never properly introduced to the world we live in”) are young sweethearts who find themselves being chased by the police after Granger’s unsavoury buddies involve him in bank robberies.
Now, starting at 8, don’t even bother with the remote. You won’t need it! It’s a night with Stanwyck! She could do it all—drama, romance, screwball comedy—with her signature style and tremendous talent. (For what it is worth, Grandpa told me once he thought I looked like her, especially when I had short hair. I’ll take that! Who wouldn’t?)
- 8PM Ladies of Leisure ’30 Capra is at the helm of this story about a wealthy artist having difficulty shaking his love’s past as a gold-digging model. Ralph Graves, Lowell Sherman also star.
- 9:45PM This Is My Affair ’37 Since Stanwyck is in this one, I’ll try to ignore Robert Taylor despite his leading role as an undercover man working for President McKinley. (In real life, Taylor married Stanwyck.) Victor McLaglen, Brian Donlevy, and John Carradine also star in this tale of crime and suspense.
- 11:35PM The Other Love ’47 This is a bit silly plot-wise, but there are many far worse ways to spend your time—and come on, it’s Stanwyck! (Really, this is an enjoyable movie to watch.) The lovely lady is a world-famed concert pianist given a terrible diagnosis by doctor David Niven, who prescribes a mode of care which will allow her to live a little longer. Instead, Stanwyck flings that to the wind, running off with a dashing professional gambler (Richard Conte)—not realizing that Niven is deeply in love with her.
- 1:30AM A Message to Garcia ’36 The President’s emissary battles Cuba’s jungle and Barbara Stanwyck in a musical comedy , a phrase I don’t normally associate with Stanwyck’s co-star Wallace Beery. John Boles, Alan Hale, Mona Barrie also star in this Spanish-American War-era story.
- 3AM Stella Dallas ’37 King Vidor’s classic soaper is all Stanwyck, as a poor woman decidedly from the wrong side of the tracks who falls for then divorces her high-society husband because she can’t get over her, well, trashy ways. But the prospect of her daughter not living the best
life leads her to a terribly difficult crossroads—and Stella Dallas becomes one of the most unexpectedly noble women in film history. Stanwyck’s performance is one of her best (really) and she plays your heartstrings like the pro she was. Anne Shirley, John Boles, Barbara O’Neil, Alan Hale, Marjorie Main, and Tim Holt are the very good supporting cast.