TCM & Work Wednesday

Munger Moss Motel, Missouri, Route 66 neon at night. Copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved.

Perhaps the other most famous motel of Route 66—Missouri’s Munger Moss! Owners Ramona and Bob are fantastic people, too.

It has been a bit of a wild and wooly couple of days here, so I’m going to try and knock this out pretty quickly. Several of the movies amongst the next week’s highlights are familiar, tried and true favourites, so please forgive my not offering a synopsis!

Daytime Thursday appears to be a day dedicated to a celebration of Rome; the evening, though, is dedicated to Noir! 

  • 2:30PM Light In the Piazza ’62    I’ve suggested this one, starring Olivia de Havilland, Yvette Mimieux, George Hamilton, and Rossanno Brazzi before. It’s just a very good movie.
  • 8PM Cry Danger ’51    Leisurely-paced drama about a man seeking revenge against those who framed him and sent him to prison. Dick Powell, Rhonda Fleming star. The last remaining print of this is reportedly in a very sad state, and a DVD release looks unlikely; might want to get this one onto DVD yourself.
  • 9:30PM 99 River Street ’53    Another tale of an innocent: in this, a champ boxer now working as an NYC taxi driver finds himself accused of murder after inadvertently finding himself tied up with jewel thieves, one of whom is planning to run away with his wife, and an actor’s troupe with a rather cruel sense of humour. I’ve not seen this, but it definitely sounds like it has a few good twists, and might be fun to watch! Stars John Payne, Evelyn Keyes, Brad Dexter.

Friday is the birthday of Mr. Archibald Alexander Leach—better known to us as Cary Grant. TCM is therefore filling daytime with Cary Grant movies, so you really can’t go wrong here.

  • 8PM Mr. Lucky ’43    Instead of scamming society belle Laraine Day out of her dough, Cary—draft-dodging owner of a gambling ship—falls for the lady instead. Cockney slang, a fundraising ball, on-and-off romance, and loyalty despite separation have made this a lasting favourite of many that we don’t hear much about. Charles Bickford, Gladys Cooper also star.
  • 12PM Gunga Din ’39     One of so many fine movies to emerge from Hollywood’s greatest year, Gunga Din has EVERYTHING: romance, adventure, heroism, friendship. Cary Grant stars alongside William Fairbanks, Jr., Victor McLaglen, Joan Fontaine, Sam Jaffe.
  • 2PM The Philadelphia Story ’40    After Gunga Din, you might want and need some lighthearted fun; this giggle-inducing, sophisticated comedy about society weddings, tabloid reporters, and true love has stood the test of time for a reason and will prove to be just what the doctor ordered. Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn (in a part actually written for her), James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Roland Young are directed by George Cukor. Grant, when asked to do the film by Hepburn, did so on the condition that he be paid $137,000 for it—not a small paycheck. But after being paid, he donated his entire salary for Philadelphia Story to the British War Relief Fund.
  • 4PM Notorious ’46    Marvellously suspenseful, well-done drama about espionage after World War II. To help Grant bust up a ring of Nazi spies, Ingrid Bergman—herself the daughter of a convicted Nazi—agrees to marry ringleader Claude Rains, and finds her own life in danger as a result. Rains, sensing his wife’s contempt and attraction for Grant, is almost painfully desperate; Grant and Bergman sizzle; Leopoldine Konstantine is the mother-in-law of nightmares. You’ll be biting your nails by the end. Only Hitchcock could bring a film like this to us. Superb.

Saturday seems to have a fair amount of adventure for us, at least during daytime when it will be (here, at least) cruelly cold outside.

  • 9AM They Met In Bombay ’41    I’ve learned over the years that Roz Russell movies are always worth watching—she had great timing, to say nothing of great winsomeness. In this action spiked with comedic moments, Russell is a jewel thief posing as a Duchess, a woman with designs on the same rare jewel as fellow thief Clark Gable. Fleeing to Hong Kong after the law catches on, of course they fall in love, and of course all sorts of hijinks and hilarity follow. Predictable, but no less fun for that. Peter Lorre also stars, along with Reginald Owen and Jessie Ralph. 
  • 1:15 Sahara ’43     Gripping actioner about a unit of Brits and Americans, formed entirely by circumstance, making a last stand against the Nazis in the famed African desert. Solid performances all ’round by the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Bruce Bennett, Lloyd Bridges, Rex Ingram, Dan Duryea, J. Carroll Naish.
  • 3PM Moby Dick ’56   Classic versions of Melville’s tale, starring Gregory Peck as the, ah, single-minded Captain Ahab. Directed by John Huston.
  • 5PM Quo Vadis ’51    Epic film set during the reign of the Roman tyrant Nero, played by the delightfully silky-voiced Peter Ustinov; I’ve still not seen this. Robert Taylor (I believe this was filmed just after he’d started yelling every line) is a Roman commander who has fallen for beautiful Christian Deborah Kerr, just in time for Nero to crack down on the new faith. Courage, romance, the burning of Rome, and reputedly fine performances and score. Filmed on location, too!

    Vintage DeSoto classic car. Copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved.

    Rare & gorgeous DeSoto at Afton Station in Oklahoma.

Sunday is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Danny Kaye’s birth, and TCM is celebrating all day. I’ve not seen any of the films here, but they sound worthwhile.

  • 2PM The Inspector General ’49    Permanent student decides to lift his own status by posing as a bureaucrat in a small village, with amusing results. Walter Slezak, Alan Hale, Gene Lockhart also star.
  • 10PM The Court Jester ’56    Kaye is posing again, this time pretending to be a court jester. Evil kings trying to rid themselves of all rivals, witches, the lure of true love, hypnosis, and mysterious men fighting for good from the forest. Good cast—Basil Rathbone, Angela Lansbury, and Cecil Parker.
  • 12AM A Song Is Born ’48    This remake of one of my favourites, Ball of Fire, involves jazz, not language—and I think it is mostly worth watching because of the jazz greats who played parts: Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Barnet, and Tommy Dorsey! Directed by Howard Hawks, who directed the original, this also stars Virginia Mayo, Steve Cochran, and Hugh Herbert.
  • 2AM Wonder Man ’45    One of a murdered set of twins possesses his living brother in order to get back at his killers. Stars Kaye, Virginia Mayo, Vera-Ellen.

Monday, TCM dedicates its daytime programming to Sidney Poitier. I must confess—though I really like Poitier’s acting, many of his movies are quite intense films that can be emotionally draining. Of course, there are well-understood reasons for this, but sometimes it is more than I can handle. Right now, with so much that has gone on in the last several months…they’re too much, especially the terrific A Raisin In The Sun (1:15PM). Running so many Poitier movies in a row is fabulous—but his movies are so solid, blade-sharp, and honest that many of them in a row is not something I, personally, can handle, especially considering the way black people in general were treated during his early career. It’s horrible, unfathomable, and I just plain don’t understand it.

I must say, though—I’m disappointed that Lilies of the Field isn’t being shown Monday. It’s a charming film in which no character is left emotionally or intellectually untouched. Also, I’m running out of time, so no descriptions—especially since most of these are very well-known films and they need no introduction. I’m sorry!

  • 8AM Blackboard Jungle ’55    Poitier stars alongside Glenn Ford and Anne Francis. Famously opens with Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock”.
  • 11:45AM Edge of the City ’57    Dock worker Poitier joins forces with Army deserter John Cassavetes fight union corruption on NYC’s waterfront. Jack Warden, Ruth White, Kathleen Maguire also star.
  • 3:30PM A Patch Of Blue ’65    Blind Shelley Winters falls in love with Poitier—not exactly socially acceptable in 1965. Considering my own family makeup, the very idea that people were so bothered by such things still astounds me! I’ve not seen this film, but it is reputed to be quite good.

Monday night, TCM honours an actor many of us love—Dick Van Dyke. He has been honoured with a SAG Lifetime Achievement Award, and rightly so, in my opinion! TCM is screening three of Van Dyke’s wonderful comedies.

  • 8PM Divorce, American Style ’67  Bickering marrieds Van Dyke and Debbie Reynolds let their marriage fall apart…then wonder if it’s not so bad compared to the single life. Comedy—though I’ve only ever seen the first 20 minutes, probably four times—isn’t that annoying?—with eye-popping sets also stars Jason Robards Jr., Jean Simmons, and Van Johnson.
  • 10PM Cold Turkey ’71    Tempted by a cash prize, an entire small town tries to stop smoking. This film—written and directed by Norman Lear—just SOUNDS entertaining. I don’t smoke, but know people who do—and would NOT want to be in this town during the attempt.
  • 12AM Fitzwilly ’67    Dick Van Dyke is an almost too-loyal butler to his suddenly impoverished employer, who is completely unaware of her predicament. Having turned the entire staff into small-time crooks, he finds a kink thrown into his plans when the elderly lady hires a secretary. Barbara Feldon and Edith Evans also star.

Vintage Packard automobile. Copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved.
Tuesday offers a great lineup of suspense films:

  • 7:30AM Gaslight ’44   Ingrid Bergman’s husband tries to drive his wife mad in order to obtain her aunt’s jewels. Directed by George Cukor, this is one not to miss! Charles Boyer is the monstrous husband who can’t help but find the maid (played by Angela Lansbury in her film debut) quite alluring. Joseph Cotten, Dame May Whitty star, too. Can’t lose!
  • 5:15PM Rebecca ’40    Based on Daphne Du Maurier novel that was, I believe, inspired by Jane Eyre. Hitchcock’s first US film, it’s a good one to watch with your sweetie on a cold winter’s night (provided your sweetheart is not under the thrall of a dead previous spouse). Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Judith Anderson, Reginald Denny, C. Aubrey Smith, Nigel Bruce make up the fantastic cast of this gothic thriller. 1940’s Best Picture winner. 

Wednesday, for whatever reason, is jam-packed with horror films. Beats me, but they can be entertaining as all get-out.

  • 10:45AM The Reptile ’66    I’m not sure what her father did to the native peoples, but they turn his daughter into a snake. Yes, that is the plot!
  • 12:30PM The Nanny ’65    Intense film starring Bette Davis as an obsessed,  malicious nanny. One of her charges, just returned from a home for disturbed children, fears she is trying to kill him and must prove it. Wendy Craig and James Villiers also star—though from what I hear, Bette turns in a pretty darned good performance here.
  • 2:15PM The Mummy ’59    Remake of the earlier film, this stars Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Furneaux, and Eddie Byrne. We all know the story—it’s candy, but there’s a reason we enjoy candy, isn’t there?

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