Oh, look, I’ve learned to be brief—with the exception of my comments about I Remember Mama, TCM’s exceptionally good selection for Sunday prime-time. Of course, that several of these are movies I’ve already gone on and on about loving does nut hurt.
In garden news—my pollinator’s garden idea has drawn some nice comments—we have put new soil down, have half a pathway through it (because that’s all the river rock I have, ha!), and even found leftover fence slats left over from the cedar fence the previous owners put on our property. The latter we will be laying down beside the shed as a sort of platform upon which I can set my potting bench—an old washstand my parents plucked off the curb for me last year. It needs a pretty coat of outdoor paint on it, and then will be good to go! We also blew out a tire on our wheelbarrow (don’t ask); I’ve decided to spray-paint the metal bit a cheery colour, stick a post of some sort through the blown-out part (there’s a hole in the metal, which is bad for yardwork but good for this re-use), and pop it into the garden as a big fake flower trellis for a small vine of some sort. Why not? It’s free. Well, after we replace the wheel, it isn’t, but…hey. There’s always a silver lining, my friends.
On to the movies!
Goodbye, Mr. Chips 1939
1:15PM Friday, May 10
There is a wealth of fine films to choose from this day, but Mr. Chips is one of the finest films, really (I’ve waxed on and on about it previously), and with such wonderful performances from leads Robert Donat and Greer Garson in this, her first movie. Keep the tissue box handy and enjoy.
How Green Was My Valley 1941
8PM Saturday, May 11
I remember watching this as a child, and it has been a while, but the cast is definitely all-star and I do remember the rich, beautiful photography. The film gives us a glimpse into the life of a hard-working Welsh mining family, with all of the drama and joy the life of a big family can bring. The stars? Well. John Ford directs Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O’Hara, Donald Crisp, Anna Lee, Roddy McDowall, Barry Fitzgerald, Patric Knowles, Rhys Williams, Ann Todd, Arthur Shields, and May Marsh. Can’t beat that. The film won five Oscars, including Best Picture, Cinematography, and Director. A fine family movie to get us into the Mother’s Day mood.
I Remember Mama 1948
8PM Sunday, May 12
Sunday is, appropriately enough, Mother’s Day films from end to end (hope TCM does the same for Father’s Day). This one, though, starring Irene Dunne as the mother of a Swedish immigrant family living in San Francisco in the ’round the turn of the century, tops the list for me, which is saying something since I do like Stella Dallas a great deal! But Mama is so heartfelt, so genuine, and the viewer slips into the world portrayed very easily, becoming part of the Hanson family.
There is not really one pivotal drama in the film; instead, there are multiple vignettes of family life that we can all identify with, ranging from sick pets and sibling squabbles to figuring out how to get by on meagre resources, a desperately ill child, and the death of a loved one. But there are happy moments as well, the most memorable of which for me is when Mama and her eldest daughter have a conversation while running errands on San Francisco’s hilly streets. Colourful characters are littered throughout—a seemingly irascible uncle who’s really a teddy bear, a hard yet gossipy aunt, a sheepish cousin, a brusque and pompous famed authoress.
Altogether, the film weaves an almost palpable environment for reminiscing and reflection, but it’s laced with plenty of humour anyone can understand and enjoy. There’s sisterly love, family jokes we all get to share in, the preciousness of commonplace events and things. Heck, there’s even fine life advice sprinkled throughout, and often in most entertaining fashion.
Through it all shines Dunne’s Mama (in a flawless, opal-bright performance), loving and lovely, thoughtful and brimming over with a mother’s love that will stop at nothing to do what is best for her beloved brood. The hospital scene in particular comes to mind, and it never fails to choke me up. Mama is smart—she knows exactly what the kids are up to though she doesn’t always let on—and simple: she just love the kids and her husband.
Mama is the noble, selfless pillar around which the Hanson family revolves, lamb and lioness as necessary.
Not only is this one of Dunne’s best performances (earning her an Academy Award nomination, it was her own favourite role), the supporting cast does an excellent job as well. Best known will probably be Barbara Del Geddes, garnering an early nomination for playing the eldest Hanson daughter well before her turn on Dallas. Ellen Corby was the film’s third female Oscar nominee—you might remember her the Walton family’s grandmother during The Waltons’ long television run. I think Philip Dorn is just perfect as Papa, and Oskar Homolka is great as Uncle Chris. Big names like Rudy Vallee (as the doctor), Sir Cedric Hardiwicke, and Edgar Bergen (sans Charlie McCarthy!) round out the film as well. So fine is I Remember Mama that even the poison pen of Hedda Hopper could find little wrong with it:
“As long as we turn out pictures like I Remember Mama we don’t have to worry about the future of Hollywood.”
I cannot have children. But if I could, I’d want to be a mother just like Marta Hanson.
Yankee Doodle Dandy 1942
10:15PM Monday, May 13
Does one need to say a word about this James Cagney song-and-dance-and-patriotism spectacular? Heaven forfend!
Not having seen the first film, I wish to note I’m including it almost solely because it stars two of my favourites—Barbara Stanwyck and Joseph Cotten (it being Mr. Cotten’s birthday). In it, Stanwyck plays a 19th-century housekeeper plotting to kill her young charge for his dough; in the meantime, she is also flirting her heart out with Cotten, the man with a mystery identity. Fair warning: Stanwyck sings. She’s not the worst, but she’s no Irene Dunne!
The Steel Trap, however, I have seen a few times, and it’s a pretty good psychological thriller. Cotten robs the very bank he works for, planning to leave the country with his completely innocent and unaware wife (Theresa Wright) so they can live the good life and enjoy one another. His conscience, however, doesn’t intend to let him off easily, and even as he races to the border, he feels himself pulled back. In the end, it becomes a race against time—will he leave, or be able to return the
funds to the bank? Very good and will definitely hold your attention. Plus, again: Joseph Cotten.