As you are all no doubt aware, America’s Mermaid, Esther Williams, passed away last week. I was unable to get a post up due to the family incident, but want to let you know right off the bat that TCM is dedicating prime time this Thursday—tomorrow—and Friday daytime to the recently departed beauty. Unsurprisingly, tomorrow night’s lineup includes her best-known films, with the iconic images of the talented swimmer we all immediately think of when we hear her name. Set the DVR and hang onto them—little girls especially adore Esther Williams and her fanciful films. Many a rainy Saturday afternoon found my sister and I staring, goggle eyed, at the television watching an Esther Williams movie! (Then we began begging for a pool. Which we actually got, and we’re both strong swimmers. Who says movies never inspire anything good?)
Between that and TCM’s Friday Night Noir, our top 5 for the week are quickly gobbled up.
Also, if I disappear for a bit, we are expecting some nasty weather here tonight and tomorrow, and might lose power (which I dearly hope does not happen). Just an FYI! And things have been mad ’round here for about a week, so not many new photos have been posted, meaning I’m digging ’round in the archives again for your eye candy.
Thursday Night Prime Time
Beginning at 8PM EST, TCM will be airing many (if not most) of the films of Esther Williams, first called a “mermaid” by Clark Gable himself. As we all know, the comment stuck, and the beautiful woman who would have represented the US in the Olympics had it not been for the war came to be known as “America’s Mermaid”. I’m very much looking forward to seeing these—it must be said that they’re not exactly Hollywood’s best writing, but they are fun to watch. Moreover, Williams’ smile and joy are positively infectious. The highlights (alas, it’s been years since I’ve seen some of these):
- 8PM Bathing Beauty, 1944 (her first starring vehicle)
- 10PM Neptune’s Daughter, 1949 (in my opinion, the best of her swimming movies, if not all of her ouvre)
- 11:45PM Million Dollar Mermaid, 1952 (with production numbers by the great Busby Berkeley!)
- 1:45AM Dangerous When Wet, 1952 (possibly my second-favourite Williams film; they’re close!)
- 3:30AM Andy Hardy’s Double Life, 1942
- 5:15AM Thrill Of A Romance, 1945
- 7:15AM Easy To Wed, 1946 (not nearly as good as the original, Libeled Lady, but this is the first big film for Williams’ costar Lucille Ball)
- 11AM Fiesta, 1946
- 3PM On An Island With You, 1948 (quite a cast: in addition to Esther, we have Peter Lawford, Ricardo Montalban, Jimmy Durante, Cyd Charisse, and Xavier Cugat!)
Also worth watching Thursday: TCM gives us not one, but two of Basil Rathbone’s “Sherlock Holmes” entries: Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon at 6:45AM and Sherlock Holmes in Terror by Night at 8AM. Nearly the entire day, dedicated to Rathbone on this, his birthday, is worth frying your DVR for: Confession 1937 at 9:15AM; A Tale Of Two Cities 1935 at 10:45AM—this is the one starring Ronald Colman, and in my opinion, it is the best of the film versions; The Last Days of Pompeii 1935 at 2:30PM; The Mask Of Zorro 1940 with Tyrone Power and Linda Darnell at 6PM. Altogether, a very good day.
Friday Night Prime Time
Again, it’s all good stuff: Noir! Tonight’s schedule:
- 8PM Dark Passage 1947 (Bacall & Bogey—worth it right there)
- 10PM Nightfall 1956
- 11:30PM The Burglar 1956
- 1:15AM Shoot The Piano Player 1960
The Palm Beach Story 1942
8PM Saturday, June 15
When his wife (Claudette Colbert) leaves him, husband Joel McCrea chases her from the Big Apple to Palm Beach, only to find that during her completely unhinged train ride down, she’s met a millionaire (Rudy Vallee) and is being wooed with great force—and money. The millionaire’s, ah, adventuresome sister (Mary Astor) finds McCrea irresistible, especially since Colbert forces him to pose as her brother, because she’s now intent on marrying Vallee and using his dough to finance McCrea’s floundering business.
I haven’t said “screwball comedy” yet, have I?
Well, now I have, and this one is a treat indeed. It’s one madcap thing after another, from the house-hunting Wienie King to shotgun fire on a train to Toto (not the dog, the sister’s suitor—though he is doglike in behaviour…), as only Preston Sturges could do it. And he does it so well, despite the somewhat weird ending, as does the tremendous cast. Definitely one you’ll enjoy over and over. This is the first in an evening of flicks featuring Vallee, by the way.
Also worth watching Saturday: Courage Of Lassie 1946, 12PM
Life With Father 1947
10:15PM Sunday, June 16
Father’s Day is full of daddy-related films, but I think this is one of my favourites. An absolute charmer, it concerns the family of efficiency expert Clarence Day (William Powell), living in almost-turn-of-the-century New York City. Day is an eccentric but wonderfully loving father who by all appearances rules the home, but the gentle, loving hand of mother Irene Dunne is hardly unable to pull a few strings or nudge even Father when it is necessary.
I can’t really say major things happen—not that this stopped audiences from flocking to first the play Life With Father and then to the film (it was one of the highest-grossing of all time). This is one of those films Old Hollywood excelled at and can’t seem to figure out today: sweet and real and gentle, just following a family through the little dramas of day-to-day life with care and affection. Not for nothing (nor just because Irene Dunne was also the star of this film) does the marvellous I Remember Mama come to mind, or perhaps Room For One More. Nothing much happens—nothing but life, that is.
A very young Elizabeth Taylor also stars in Life With Father, which is just an all-around delightful film you’re sure to love.
8PM Monday, June 17
Based upon Rafael Sabatini’s famed novel about a young lawyer who seeks out to avenge the duelling death of his best friend in the years before the French Revolution. Posing as an actor in order to complete his quest, the man becomes known as a comedian, Scaramouche. Fair warning right off the bat: This stars Stewart Granger, and is therefore automatically unintentionally hilarious and somewhat campy even when it should not be. But it is still full of swashbuckling adventure with romance, amusements intentional and Granger-related, and the costumes really are marvellous (alas, we can’t say the same for all of the makeup work) if a bit tart-ish at times, and it is all in delicious Technicolor. There is some marvellous fencing as well, and I’m always up for that. Eleanor Parker, Janet Leigh, Mel Ferrer, Nina Foch (as Marie Antoinette) star.
Also worth watching Monday: Picture Snatcher 1933, 9:45AM; The Awful Truth 1937, 2:30PM; Boy Meets Girl 1938, 4PM
8PM Wednesday, June 18
A George Cukor-directed classic screwball comedy about an heiress who falls hard for her sister’s fiance, this is one of the best films stars Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant ever made. As the idealistic and somewhat off-the-reservation member of her wealthy family, that Hepburn’s character is attracted to Grant’s character, himself not exactly toeing the line of convention. That Grant is engaged to her beautiful, if dull, sister doesn’t seem to bother her all that much. A terrific adaptation of the very funny Philip Barry play. Doris Nolan, Lew Ayres, Edward Everett Horton, Jean Dixon also star.
Also worth watching Wednesday: The Constant Nymph 1943, 8AM; Lassie Come Home 1943, 11:45AM; My Name Is Julia Ross 1945, 1:30PM; A Woman’s Face 1941, 1:30AM