Saturday, I made it to the eye doctor (you’d think a photographer would make that appointment regularly, but no, I’ve been very bad since moving to Ohio) for my annual checkup for the first time in about two and a half years. In addition to NOT having to have my eyes dilated thanks to the new photographic equipment he has—hooray!—I learned that for the first time in ages, my eyes have actually gotten worse. For probably the past ten years, vision in my weakest eye especially has improved by at least a quarter-step every time I visit; once, it was a three-quarter step! I was very disappointed to learn that, clearly, I’m somehow slacking off somewhere.
That said, this also explains the splitting headaches I’ve been getting; my old prescription has literally been messing with my head. So…yes. Hie thee to thy optometrist.
Ready for our weekly look at the best (in my opinion) TCM has to offer during the next seven days? We’re nearly to the end of 30 Days of Oscar, but I must say that TCM appears to be pulling out quite a few stops at this point, truly having a few films that everyone will enjoy.
- 1:45PM Stagecoach ’39 Superb Western—one of the best, in fact. Stagecoach is the quintessential Western, featuring solidly written development from a fascinatingly diverse group of characters and, of course, tremendous excitement in America’s cruelly beautiful Old West. Directed by John Ford, Stagecoach was also crucial in making John Wayne a true star (though Ford, never a sweetheart, was downright vicious to the young actor during filming—with superb results, as you’ll see). Furthermore, Ford began developing a real friendship with the Navajo Indians living in Monument Valley during the filming of Stagecoach, hiring over 200 of them to play attacking Apaches in the film’s truly thrilling climax. Also starring Claire Trevor, John Carradine, Andy Devine, Thomas Mitchell, Louise Platt, George Bancroft, Donald Meek, and Tim Holt, this is NOT a movie to miss.
- 5:45PM Foreign Correspondent ’40 Another Hitchcock film dealing in foreign intrigue, this time involving the assassination of a diplomat. Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, George Sanders star.
- 8PM Double Indemnity ’44 Stop into the drive-in for a beer, slip on your anklet, and buy your train tickets for this one starring Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, and Edward G. Robinson. This is one of the best film noirs of all time: fantastic dialogue, cleverly filmed, and of course great performances.
- 10PM A Place in the Sun ’51 I agree with Leonard Maltin: this entire film rests on Montgomery Clift’s slight shoulders, but he pulls it off—better than the supporting cast, too, I daresay, and that includes Liz Taylor, who is still marvellous in this film. Clift manages to win the love of heiress Taylor, but has the slight difficulty of pregnant girlfriend Shelley Winters, who demands he do right by her, to deal with. Raymond Burr is, yes, “absurd” (also agreeing with Maltin). I’m not as crazy about this one as so many people seem to be—yes, it is good, and Clift turns in an amazing performance—but it is a good flick well worth your time.
We can all use a laugh any time, but Friday, February 22 is jam-packed with mostly comedies from the golden era of witty comedies, the mid-30s to early 40s. Good drama in prime-time, too—and don’t miss Born Yesterday!
- 6:15AM Lady For A Day ’33 Charmer from the pen of Damon Runyon about a softhearted gangster turning elderly, impoverished Apple Annie into a society dame so her visiting daughter won’t be embarrassed by her. Directed by Frank Capra, this version stars Warren William May Robson, Guy Kibbee, and Glenda Farrell.
- 8AM The Awful Truth ’37 Despite their divorce, Irene Dunne and Cary Grant can’t seem to leave each other alone. Extremely funny screwball comedy of the sort Dunne and Grant excelled at; I love this one. 😉 Also stars Ralph Bellamy.
- 9:45AM Holiday ’38 Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Lew Ayres, Doris Nolan.
- 11:30AM Theodora Goes Wild ’36 Irene Dunne is the small-town girl secretly writing lurid bestselling romance novels in this, her first comedy. Things go a bit loopy when she falls for the New Yorker illustrating her book! Also stars Melvyn Douglas and Thomas Mitchell.
- 1:15PM You Can’t Take It With You ’38 Delightful scream of a movie wherein pretty Jean Arthur, who lives in an eccentric household of free thinkers, falls for Jimmy Stewart—who happens to the the son of a stodgy banker not at all likely to appreciate everyone’s colourful personality. Also starring Lionel Barrymore, Ann Miller, Edward Arnold, Mischa Auer, Donald Meek.
- 3:30PM Mr. Smith Goes to Washington ’39 Jimmy Stewart, Claude Rains, Jean Arthur, Harry Carey, Thomas Mitchell. One of my very favourite movies that still holds up well because if anything, Congress is more corrupt—and we all long for someone who WILL stand on principle.
- 5:45PM Only Angels Have Wings‘ 39 Mail pilots and their ladies deal with the stresses and dangers of life while attempting to get the job done in the mountains of South America. Fine script and great cast, with Howard Hawks directing Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Rita Hayworth, Thomas Mitchell, and Noah Beery Jr.
- 8PM Here Comes Mr. Jordan ’41 Was just talking to Dad about this one last week; in it, Claude Rains is the angel trying to help boxer Robert Montgomery—killed 50 years before his time—find a new body. Unfortunately, Montgomery ends up in the body of a tycoon whose wife is intent on killing him however she can. Marvellous film remade often, but never as wonderfully done. Also stars Evelyn Keyes, Rita Johnson, Edward Everett Horton, and James Gleason.
- 2AM From Here To Eternity ’53 Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, Ernest Borgnine, Burt Lancaster.
- 4:15AM Born Yesterday ’50 What a shame this is in the middle of the night! Definitely set your DVR for this winner. When a mobster-like businessman wants his girlfriend to be less embarrassingly ditzy and more intelligent, he hires a man to teach her—with, of course, unexpected but delightful results. Stars Judy Holliday, William Holden, Broderick Crawford, and Howard St. John; directed by George Cukor.
Saturday, February 23 begins and ends with Humphrey Bogart, and I really do want to draw your attention to The Harder They Fall. I’m not into boxing (though I’m not against it, either—just not my cup of tea), but please trust me that if you aren’t either, it’s still a very fine film much worth watching. Keeping in mind that it’s nearly a noir might help you if the boxing aspect sets you off.
- 6:15AM Sahara ’43 Excellent, excellent wartime movie starring Humphrey Bogart, Bruce Bennett, J. Carrol Naish, Lloyd Bridges, Rex Ingram, and Dan Duryea. *EXCELLENT.*
- 1:30PM Anatomy Of A Murder ’59 Jimmy Stewart, Eve Arden, Ben Gazzara, Lee Remick, George C. Scott, Arthur O’Connell.
- 6PM Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner ’67 You know those people in your life who act like they Love Everyone…until one of those everyones shows up at their door? Yes. Very fine drama about a white upper-class couple dealing with the shock of their daughter showing up with her fiance, a black doctor. Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn.
- 8PM On The Waterfront ’54 Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee Cobb, Rod Steiger, Eva Marie Saint.
- 10PM The Harder They Fall ’56 I saw this years ago—well, stumbled across it—and was drawn in. Bogey’s last film—done when he was dying of cancer—has him playing the role of a sports journalist who’s become a press agent building up a young boxer, only to learn how cruelly managers treat their boxing prizefighters before eventually tossing them into the gutter. Very well-written drama that doesn’t get preachy, if I recall; it just tells the story, which is all a movie should do. Also stars Rod Steiger, Jan Sterling, and Max Baer. Don’t let the fact that this is a “boxing movie” keep you away from this film; it’s truly excellent, and a high note for Bogey to have retired on; he turned in yet another terrific performance.
- 12AM The Caine Mutiny ‘54 Bogey, Jose Ferrer, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, Lee Marvin. Based on Herman Wouk’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel; the typhoon scene is a doozy, but the whole film is engrossing.
Sunday, February 24 has two really fantastic actioners in the morning—both great movies.
- 6:30AM The Guns of Navarone ’61 Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn.
- 9:30AM The Bridge On The River Kwai ’57 William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa, directed by David Lean. When the Japanese force the British POWs to build a strategically important bridge, one of the colonels tries to make it a morale-building, one-upping-the-Japanese exercise…but Holden and Hawkins plan its destruction. Spectacular action sequences, marvellous psychological study—and deservedly won seven Oscars. Also, for what it’s worth, this is one of the three movies Ron Swanson has seen.
- 8PM Tootsie ’82 Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange. I’ve never seen this, but I know a lot of people like it—so here is your heads’ up!
Monday, February 25. Well, it’s a Monday. What can we say?
- 6:30AM Divorce, American Style ’67 I don’t know what TCM paid for this, but it must have been substantial , as they’ve probably aired it 23 times since December. Even so…fun comedy about, well, divorce—and changing our mind. Unsurprisingly (and delightfully) Dick Van Dyke & Debbie Reynolds are wonderful in this; also stars Jason Robards, Van Johnson, and Jean Simmons.
- 10PM Dead Poets’ Society ’89 Yes, this is sappy whiny collectivist claptrap, but…I remember enjoying it. Toss out the preachiness and you have a decent movie. (Hi, I’m Jen, and I’m in sweetheart mode tonight.) Stars Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, and an absurdly young (they ALL were—Robin Williams barely looks above the age of 25) Ethan Hawke.
Tuesday, February 26 makes up for Monday, let’s just say that, shall we? What a delightful lineup!
- 1:30PM Merrily We Live ’38 This is a very, very cute 30s comedy with a familiar storyline, but none the less charming for that—in large part thanks to the delightful, sparkling cast: Constance Bennett, Billie Burke, Brian Aherne, Alan Mowbray, Bonita Granville. This is a great one to DVR and save for a rotten day, as its lighthearted humour and fun will surely lift your spirits.
- 3:15PM-6:30PM TOPPER! ’37, ’39, ’41 The Topper movies, centering on an exasperated and henpecked husband being helped by glamourous high-society ghosts,
are charming indeed and full of witty laughs—though the first, Topper (3:15PM) is probably the very best, due in large part to the amazing cast: Constance Bennett, Cary Grant, Roland Young, Billie Burke, Alan Mowbray, Hedda Hopper, and Arthur Lake. The second, Topper Takes a Trip (5PM) is missing Cary Grant, but is no less fun for that—this time, poor beleaguered Topper is trying to save his obnoxious wife from gold diggers. Finally, there’s Topper Returns (6:30PM), wherein Topper turns the tables by helping lovely ghost Joan Blondell tack down her killer. Billie Burke stars in all three movies along with Mr. Young; Carole Landis joins the cast for the third film. These are supremely enjoyable films and also worth keeping around for rough days. You simply can’t go wrong with them. Also, the cars are stunning.
- 8PM Dodsworth ’36 Based on Sinclair Lewis’ novel, the impact of this film really surprised me the first time I saw it; viewers are drawn into the story, into the characters, into the film, which is brilliantly written. Walter Huston stars in the title role as a recently retired industrialist who finds himself at odds with his wife, who eventually leaves him, breaking his heart. But there may be hope yet…you hope. I just love this movie and think TCM doesn’t play it often enough; please don’t miss it. The photography is gorgeous, too. Let yourself be swept into this one; you’ll be glad you did, dear reader. Also stars Ruth Chatterton, Paul Lukas, Mary Astor, David Niven, Maria Ouspenskaya, Spring Byington.
- 10PM The Best Years Of Our Lives ’46 I adore this film. One of the best WWII movies ever made—and not a shot is fired. Won several Oscars, deservedly so. Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, Harold Russell, Hoagy Carmichael, Gladys George, Roman Bohnen, Steve Cochran directed by William Wyler.
- 1AM Guys And Dolls ’55 Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Vivian Blaine.
Wednesday, February 27 is slightly different than Tuesday, in that it’s brimming over with drama, not laughs—but you’ll get enough of them, just keep a box of tissues nearby for weepers like Stella Dallas, Wuthering Heights, and (to me, anyhow—what a shame that such masculine honour is mostly dead now) The Four Feathers.
- 6:15AM Stella Dallas ’37 Weeper with Barbara Stanwyck as a mother who, after a life of selfishness, makes the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of her beloved daughter. Borderline first-class weeper! Also stars John Boles, Anne Shirley, Alan Hale, Barbara O’Neil, Tim Holt, and Marjorie Main.
- 8:15AM Ball Of Fire ’41 Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck star as an odd pair of potential sweethearts in one of my very favourite romantic comedies. Also stars Dana Andrews, Oscar Homolka, Dan Duryea, and Gene Krupa; directed by Howard Hawks.
- 10:15 Wuthering Heights ’39 Superlative film version directed by William Wyler and starring Merle Oberon, Laurence Olivier, David Niven, Flora Robson, Donald Crisp, and Geraldine Fitzgerald. ’39 wasn’t Hollywood’s best year ever for nothing.
- 12PM The Westerner ’40 Land disputes, horse stealing, and a difficult judge are the threads making up this excellent western directed by William Wyler. Walter Brennan earned his third Oscar for his role as the quick-tempered, unpredictable Judge Roy Bean. Also stars Gary Cooper, Fred Stone, and Dana Andrews.
- 1:45PM The Jungle Book ’42 Oh, we all like this one. Starring Sabu and featuring a very lovely score by Miklos Rozsa.
- 5:30PM That Hamilton Woman ’31 That this was Winston Churchill’s favourite movie is pretty much enough all I need to know, but if you find that inadequate information, this is the story of the against-all-odds (and the stars) romance between Lord Admiral Nelson and the married commoner he fell in love with. Starring Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, a stunning pair if ever there was one; also Alan Mowbray. Directed by Alexander Korda, this is one to watch…and I hope I remember to do so. 😉
- 8PM The Four Feathers ’39 Story of manhood and friendship based on A.E.W. Mason’s tale of a man who, after being labelled a coward by his dearest friends, must find a way to deal with an uprising in the Sudan while salvaging his family’s reputation. In the process, he faces death—his own, and his friends’. Another film scored by Miklos Rozsa, this Korda-directed film stars John Clements, Ralph Richardson, and C. Aubrey Smith. Filmed on location.
- 10PM The Third Man ’49 Fantastic film about a man trying to get to the bottom of his friend’s death in postwar Vienna. One of the great thrillers, starring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Trevor Howard, Bernard Lee.
- 12AM The Fallen Idol ’48 Here we enter a stretch of films I’ve not seen but would like to, and of course, they air in the middle of the night. 😉 A little boy admires and worships a household servant suspected of killing his wife; based on Graham Greene’s “The Basement Room”. Ralph Richardson, Michele Morgan, Bobby Henrey, Jack Hawkins.
- 4AM The Private Life Of Henry VIII ’33 I’m presently reading Alison Weir’s (excellent) biography of Henry VIII’s great daughter, Elizabeth I, but the Tudors have always fascinated me anyhow (with all due apologies to the Plantagenets). This Alexander Korda-directed film stars Charles Laughton as the famous monarch; Elsa Lanchester is Anne of Cleves. Also stars Merle Oberon (as Anne Boleyn, of course), Robert Donat, and Wendy Barrie.