Was TCM trying to make my job easier or more difficult this week? There are quite a few very good movies that I’m fond of on the schedule, making it difficult to pick, especially with not long to write this post (let’s just say it has been a crazy stretch of days)! But as always, I try to pick some good ones…
The Mayor of Hell 1933
7AM Thursday, May 30
Y’all know I’m a big sucker for James Cagney flicks, but let’s be honest: if there’s an actor whose movies you’re always bound to go for, I think Cagney is a good one to pick. Now, I know this is one I’ve enjoyed before, but it has been a long while. In it, Cagney plays a racketeer given the job of helping run a reform school as a political gift—but the plight of the kids hits him hard, and the crony becomes a true reformer. The only real question is whether or not this is a permanent change or if the leopard really can’t do a thing about those spots. Not a great movie, but a good one, with a surprising ending. Madge Evans, Allen Jenkins, Dudley Digges, and Frankie Darro also star.
Libeled Lady 1936
8PM Saturday, June 1 (June?! What?!?!)
This Depression-era comedy is a real treat, but everything happens fast, so look sharp—and enjoy it! Spencer Tracy is a newspaper editor trying to force firecracker heiress Myrna Loy—who happens to be suing his paper—into a compromising position by using his fiancee (Jean Harlow) and a former staffer-turned-debauchee (William Powell). Imagine our surprise when Tracy’s plan backfires, which it does, in spectacularly entertaining fashion. The four stars are impossible to top in this sort of story; had this been filmed sans sets and beautiful costumes, you’d be just as delighted. Of course, Loy and Powell always worked together beautifully, which is a big help. This is one of those great 30s comedies that are just about impossible to match today, much less beat. (Unfortunately, our standards have collapsed a great deal.)
Also worth watching Saturday: Lassie Come Home ’43, 12PM (you know I love this one); A Patch Of Blue ’65, 1:45PM; The Natural ’84, 3:45PM (and I really don’t even like baseball—perish the thought, I know).
The Harder They Fall 1956
2PM Sunday, June 2
A boxing movie probably seems an odd pick from a schedule that includes two more great films, but The Harder They Fall is a very well done, very powerful film. I caught it in the middle one insomniatic night and stuck through to the end, left thoughtful about this portrayal of a boxing syndicate and the way it treats its “star”. The film focuses on the case of Argentinian boxer Toro Moreno, his callous manager (Rod Steiger), and a sportswriter-turned promotions manager (Humphrey Bogart) who is soon disturbed and eventually infuriated by the treatment of Toro. This might not sound like much of a story, but it is, again, extremely well done. That Toro is a pretty nice guy—a lamb, even, in personality—makes it all the more affecting. Moreover, this is Bogey’s last film, and though we can see he’s rather ill, he still
turns in an excellent performance. Definitely one to watch—no matter your feelings about boxing.
Also worth watching Sunday: Anthony Adverse ’36, 10AM; The Public Enemy ’31, 12:30PM; The Adventures of Robin Hood ’38, 10PM. Told you there were a few good ones!
The Women 1939
9AM Monday, June 3
One of my very favourites. Just watch it, already!
Also worth watching Monday: The Great Dictator 1940, 11:15AM.
Waterloo Bridge 1940
10AM Wednesday, June 5
This one caught me by surprise the first time I saw it. Vivien Leigh is a ballerina who meets and falls for a young man from an aristocratic, well-to-do family (Robert Taylor) on London’s Waterloo Bridge during an air raid. Her feelings are returned with vigor, and the couple soon become engaged. What could be a run-of-the-mill wartime romance takes a turn, however, when Taylor is reported killed on the front before the couple can marry. Leigh and her friend have been fired by their ballet company because of her impetuosity in agreeing to marry Taylor, and as the economy is already in dire straits due to the war, both women are left to choose
starvation or prostitution; Leigh’s character has no desire to live anyhow, and continues on as a broken shell of a woman.Until, a year after hearing of Taylor’s death, she meets him coming into the train station where she is trying to pick up soldiers. What follows, you must see for yourself.
It might sound a bit maudlin (or a lot), but the script is good and the acting—particularly by Leigh, who is also painfully stunning and luminous in this film—lift it above any possibility of that. Instead it becomes a bit thought-provoking, once you’re over the film itself. Leigh could always act well with her eyes, and in this film she does so marvellously.
I can’t guarantee you won’t cry, either. Nominated for Best Cinematography (and the photography is *gorgeous*) and Best Score, Waterloo Bridge probably deserved a Best Picture and Best Actress nod as well, but the Academy doesn’t always have its had on straight.
There’s a strong female cast here—in addition to powerhouse Leigh, the film stars Maria Ouspenskaya, Virginia Field, and Lucile Watson. C. Aubrey Smith also stars.
Also worth watching Wednesday: Camille 1936, 6AM; Three Comrades 1938, 8AM; Westward The Women 1951, 6PM (for some reason, I really enjoyed this “wagon train of mail-order brides head West” flick as a girl; time to re-learn why!); The Far Country 1954, 8PM; Winchester ’73 1950, 9:45PM.