Ah, yes, my attempt to return to normalcy after the holidays! For the new readers, Wednesday is when I, lover of nearly all things vintage and retro including classic movies, share with you what I consider the highlights in TCM’s schedule for the next week while also sharing my most recently-released photography (work) with you. Especially good movies are bolded. Shall we begin?
Yesterday, TCM spent the day dedicated to Elvis Presley, whose birthday it was. They’re following up with a sort of Upstairs/Downstairs-Downton Abbey Wednesday morning, it seems; prime time is dedicated to January Star of the Month Loretta Young.
- 8PM Employees’ Entrance ’33 Not quite Are You Being Served?, but this Warren William-Loretta Young vehicle is certainly interesting! A movie about a department store manager without scruples doesn’t sound like much, but toss in some ambition, extreme self-centeredness and manipulative behaviour along with a few pretty women, and the pre-Code movie has a bit of a bite. Wallace Ford also stars.
- 12:15AM Midnight Mary ’33 Melodrama about an orphan whose life takes the expected rotten turns—seduction and personal ruination. William Wellman directs Loretta Young, Franchot Tone, Una Merkel, and Ricardo Cortez in an Anita Loos story-based movie I’ve never seen that might, melodrama or no, be worth seeing.
During this Thursday primetime, TCM’s beloved host Robert Osborne shares a few of his favourites (always interesting, to say the least). Daytime features Sal Mineo, who, if a friend of mine is to be trusted, was quite the heartthrob during the late 50s. But then, she’s still fairly enamoured of him…
- 6PM Rebel Without A Cause ’55 Shocking as it might be, I’ve never seen this in its entirety, just bits and pieces here and there. This always seems to surprise people, so…hope you are surprised. Also shocking is that I’m not really a Dean or Natalie Wood fan; perhaps it was their style of acting or the projects they chose, but there it is. At any rate, we all know: this is the tale of alienated teenagers (my parents’ generation) rebelling against their parents and the world at large—and it should be noted that many refer to this movie, and petulant modern-day teenagers similar to those in the movie, as “Rebel Without A Clue”. Whether or not that’s justified, I can’t say. Dean, Wood, and Mineo star alongside many others (like Dennis Hopper and Ann Doran), many of whom, as Leonard Maltin notes, died very young.
- 8PM Demetrius and the Gladiators ’54 Mr. Osborne’s first pick is this, sequel to The Robe; in it, a slave keeps the robe of Christ, then finds himself forced to become a gladiator for Caligula. Not sure I can think of two more disparate men—Christ and Caligula—though I rather doubt that is discussed in the film (but perhaps it is!). Victor Mature, Susan Hayward, Ernest Borgnine, Michael Rennie, and the always-slinky Anne Bancroft star.
- 10PM Roughly Speaking ’45 Rosalind Russell loses one husband, marries another quite different man, raises her darling brood of seven during the early years of the 20th century in what is pegged as a drama, but I think is more of a charming drama-dey along the lines of “Life With Father”. Jack Carson costars, along with Robert Hutton, Jean Sullivan, and Alan Hale.
- 12AM The Acquaintance ’43 Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins, perpetually trying to upstage the other and steal each others’ lines, butt heads again in this film about two childhood friends whose lives remain intertwined and rivalries in every way. There are always fireworks, daggers, and simmering bubbles of hatred when Davis & Hopkins get together; that alone makes it worth watching, if you ask me. Dolores Moran stars, too.
- 2AM The Hurricane ’37 This is worth watching for the hurricane scenes alone—as Maltin notes, they still have not been topped, much less equalled—but Dorothy Lamour is luminous (oh, when wasn’t she?) and the story isn’t even bad. Paradisical life on the tropical Isle of Manikoora is threatened, then shattered by first an evil governor, then the titular storm. A treat to watch, it really is. Mary Astor, C. Aubrey Smith, Jon Hall, Thomas Mitchell, and a hurricane star in a film directed by the great John Ford & produced by Sam Goldwyn.
Friday looks really great—a bunch of hard-bitten movies starring grim-faced, hard-bitten men who look like men—Cagney! Bogie! Eddie G!—for the always-wonderful George Raft’s birthday. They’re not all great films, but if you find yourself with time to kill and your brain hurts too much to read, you can’t go wrong flipping on TCM.
- 7:15AM Each Dawn I Die ’39 A reporter trying to shed light on the dirt and grime in society’s corners and high-rises, James Cagney is framed in order to get him out of the way. Shipped off to prison, where he meets hardened George Raft. “Two sticks of dynamite thrown together in a man-made inferno!” These circumstances don’t exactly send Cagney back to his roots as a man fighting for the little guy. I do agree with others that the last portion is weak, but it’s definitely watchable—a good flick to watch.
- 9AM They Drive By Night ’40 Really terrific story about two brothers (Bogie and Raft) running a truck-driving business in the face of dangerous roads and lousy customers when they’re framed for murder by the (literally) insanely jealous Ida Lupino. Not only is the story very good (fantastic dialogue) and well-acted, it’s well-filmed. “Ooomph Girl” Ann Sheridan also stars, as well as Alan Hale and Gale Page. Don’t miss it.
- 10:45AM Manpower ’41 Edward G. Robinson, Marlene Dietrich, George Raft, Eve Arden, Alan Hale, Frank McHugh: I’m not sure there’s more you could require from Warner Brothers in the 40s. Do I even need to tell you what it’s about?
- 12:30PM Background To Danger ’43 An American finds himself tied up in Nazi intrigue in WW2 Turkey. Have never seen it, but the stars and the promise of a tight script and great car chase have my interest piqued. None can be trusted. Raft, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Brenda Marshall star.
Saturday, January 12 is rather different than TCM’s usual kid-friendly offerings, though there doesn’t seem to be anything inappropriate for snowbound youngsters. Better, though, there are a few worth DVRing for cold winter’s nights. 😉
- 5:30PM The Treasure of the Sierra Madre ’48 Hubby and I were just talking about this one the other day. This is a truly great movie, a real study of self-degraded human nature—and what an ugly stew it is, but oh, what fine filmmaking! Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt, and Walter Huston are prospectors seeking gold in the Sierra Madre, but despite having to band together to ward off bandits and disaster, they let their worst characteristics rule them. Fantastic—a favourite of mine for its terrific story and truly great performances. John Huston directed his father in Sierra Madre, which one not only the Oscar for Best Direction but for Best Screenplay—and rightly so.
- 8PM Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? ’62 The cult classic starring Bette Davis & Joan Crawford. Just so you know it’s on. 😉
- 12:45AM The Little Foxes ’41 The great William Wyler directs Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, Teresa Wright, Dan Duryea, and Richard Carlson in the film based on Lillian Hellman’s play. Her own ambition pushing her onward, a woman struggles with her siblings for the sake of power and wealth in the deep South, but she’s hardly the only deceptive or manipulative member of the family. Sibling rivalry, theft, betrayal, and general hatred rise easily and cruelly to the surface in yet another study of our often-ugly nature. (I’d learn NOT to be like these people instead of taking them as an example.) Fantastic acting. Some have called this Davis’ own “King Lear”; it’s one of those films that displays her tremendous talent.
- 12PM Royal Wedding ’51 Fred Astaire, Peter Lawford, Jane Powell, and Keenan Wynn star in a standard MGM musical, this about a brother-sister dance team in London when Queen Elizabeth II marries. This does feature the famous scene with Astaire dancing on the ceiling and spinning about with a hat-rack as his partner.
- 4PM Spellbound ’45 Hitchock directs this suspenseful tale of a psychiatrist (Ingrid Bergman) trying to help the man she has fallen in love with pluck murder-solving clues from his subconscious. Gregory Peck is the patient and love; film features famous dream sequences designed by Salvador Dalí and an Oscar-winning score.
- 8PM Anna and the King of Siam ’46 I don’t suppose we’ll ever be able to get the casting just right, but Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison (in a spectacle such as this, no less) are hard to resist! Rich retelling of the famed tale of a widowed British governess unafraid to spar with the ruler of what is now Thailand. Lee Cobb, Linda Darnell, and Gale Sondergaard also star.
- 10:15PM Magnificent Obsession ’35 After being party to the blinding of Irene Dunne in a car accident, alcoholic playboy Robert Taylor truly changes his ways—becoming a surgeon in order to restore her eyesight. (Only in the movies. Today, he’d sue her for wrecking the front end of his Maserati.) Nearly all consider this, the original film version, superior to the Rock Hudson vehicle; it made young and handsome Taylor a star at last, and a big one at that.
Tuesday, January 15, TCM celebrates the birthday of actress Susan Hayward and one good-looking British caper.
- 11:30AM They Won’t Believe Me ’37 After stringing three women along with affairs, philanderer Robert Young wonders why no one will believe him when he proclaims his innocence after being charged with murder. Imagine that! Susan Hayward, Jane Greer, Rita Johnson star in this noir.
- 1PM Tulsa ’49 My affection for the city after shooting it on a Route 66 trip has led to several people suggesting I watch this film. In it, Hayward seeks to avenge her father’s death by becoming successful in the burgeoning oil business, but risks losing the values he instilled in her. Robert Preston also stars.
- 8PM The League of Gentlemen ’61 An Army vet calls on his war buddies to help him rob a bank. British humour, good actors, and the note that Oliver Reed shows up in this as a ballet dancer have all piqued my interest. Jack Hawkins, Richard Attenborough, Bryan Forbes, Nanette Newman star.
Finally, we reach Wednesday, which must be Alec Guiness’ birthday, judging by the lineup. Interestingly, the films shown all focus on men of faith; rather cool, really. I’m more interested in the “Man’s Castle” at 8—I caught the beginning one insomniatic night years ago, but (blessedly) dozed off before seeing much more than that.
- 7:15AM Where Sinners Meet ’34 I’ve not seen this, but it does star Billie Burke and has a cute premise (though it could easily go awry): “An eccentric millionaire captures eloping couples to make sure they’re meant for each other.” Yes? Might be entertaining.
- 8:30AM Gaslight ’40 Original version of the Ingrid Bergman film wherein a new bride’s husband begins to drive his wife mad so that he might find jewels owned by her aunt. If this is anywhere near as good as the later version, it’s very much worth watching. Rumour has it MGM tried to destroy the negative of this version when making the later version. Now, that’s ugly! Stars Diana Wynard, Anton Walbrook, Frank Pettingell, Cathleen Cordell.
- 2PM The Detective ’54 In order to save a man’s soul, a priest (Father Brown, the priest and part-time detective created by none other than the great G.K. Chesterton) finds himself trying to catch a thief—and the art treasures lifted by the man. Stars Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood, Peter Finch.
- 3:45PM The Prisoner ’35 Behind the Iron Curtain, a cardinal is accused of treason, arrested, and crushing interrogation as his captors try to force him to confess his guilt. Sounds interesting indeed. Though it is obscure, those who’ve seen it are unfailingly impressed by Guinness’ performance. Guinness stars alongside Jack Hawkins and Raymond Huntley.
- 8PM A Man’s Castle ’33 Frank Borzage directs Loretta Young & Spencer Tracy in an oddball but sweet romance. During the Depression, impoverished Young moves into a shantytown with almost too-tough and hard-edged unemployed Tracy, hoping for true love to bloom. Apparently (I didn’t get this far), she ends up pregnant and he finds himself turning to crime so that he can provide for the girl and new baby..then the responsibility of fatherhood looks dull compared to a beautiful showgirl. I do remember the performances being very good and the script heartfelt when I watched long ago. I’m hoping I get to see the whole thing this time ’round!