TCM Top Five & Work Wednesday—Independence Day special edition! (sort of)

Miss America

Well, here’s an oddball look ahead at TCM for the coming week—mostly because tomorrow is one of my favourite holidays of all, Independence Day! As you might imagine, TCM has a bunch of America-related films. I always wish they’d let me pilot the programming for Independence Day and the like, but then we’d all be glued to the television all day. Which, considering the heat and my discomfort with rambunctious groups of people, might be just fine.

It must be said that I’ve not seen many of the films chosen for tomorrow, or not in some time. Some of the choices I plain don’t understand, but I am, after all, a woman. 😉

What’s there to see? At 9:45AM is a decent adventure film from 1955, The Scarlet Coat; in it, an American becomes a double agent in an attempt to find a traitor to the Revolution (Benedict Arnold and Major John Andre both make appearances, and if I recall Waterfall (one of ten), Schnormeier Gardenscorrectly, the portrayal of Andre is as poignantly accurate as it should be). The photography is truly good and beautifully colourful. George Sanders stars, so that alone will make it worthwhile. We have two musicals in the afternoon: Anchors Aweigh at 3 and one of my own personal favourites, the overjoyous crowd-pleaser Yankee Doodle Dandy, in which James Cagney gets to show off his vaudeville sills, at 5:30PM.

Prime time offers Ah, Wilderness at 10:45 and then several wonderful shorts that begin at 12:28PM.Back in the day, Hollywood did a fine job creating little shorts about American and world history, scientific discovery, travel destinations, and the like. I’m not sure why these fell out of fashion—money, probably. No doubt actors wish they were still being produced, because occasionally you see a future Big Star show up in them, and at any rate, it was a paycheck, after all. Alas. What do we have?

  • Give Me Liberty 1936, 12:28PM—A dramatization of Patrick Henry’s famed gauntlet-throwing speech before the Virginia legislature.
  • The Declaration Of Independence 1938, 12:50AM—A very brief look at the Continental Congress during the summer of ’76.
  • Sons Of Liberty 1939, 1:08AM—Claude Rains stars as Haym Saloman, who helped finance the Continental Army. Directed by none other than the great Michael Curtiz.

Finally, at 1:30 in the morning, TCM airs the film that should have a better time slot, 1776Is it completely accurate? Oh, goodness, no, the Cesar Rodney bits being among the worst offenses (a great patriot, but hardly an old man, and that’s just a start). But that hardly makes it bad. No, this is a thoroughly entertaining musical look at the drafting of the Declaration that started the war. From Richard Henry Lee’s exuberance to General Washington’s frustrations with Congress and the underfunding of the army he led in the face of the most powerful military on earth to

Snow pea & blossom

Snow peas growing in the garden.

the agonized bickering over what should be done regarding slavery, the film does a very fair job of covering it all, often with a humourous twist. The famed romance of John and Abigail Adams is a recurring sweet and funny spot throughout the film, and I know of at least one person inspired to read their correspondence as a result of this very film! Don’t miss it. I know it has been, absurdly, placed in the middle of the night, but tape and enjoy later.

Besides, how often do we get to hear the voice of K.I.T.T. singing about the rights of men? Whenever we watch 1776, that’s when!

Finally, at 4:30AM is the terrific Western Winchester ’73. Winchesters played a part in winning the West—in the hands of white men and the natives who travelled in seasons across the land—and this is really one of the great American Westerns. Too many treats at the Independence Day picnic? You’ll be well-entertained throughout the night.

So, what else is there during the remainder of the week? I have to be extra-picky…

An American in Paris
2PM Sunday, July 7

Yes, I do see the humour in choosing a film in which France is prominently featured just days after Independence Day—particularly as that nation’s revolution was so horrifying that we could be forgiven for thinking it fueled by demons instead of a thirst for liberty—but this is just a spectacular, delightful musical, even with Gene Kelly’s costar Leslie Caron, who I have never liked for some reason (she’s a beautiful dancer and good actress, just…I Summer Stroll at Schnormeier Gardens. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved. don’t know. I’m nice to everyone, which gets me into trouble, but even I have my moments and foibles!).  It must be said that the story itself is a bit…hm…downright dry-rotted in places, but believe me, with the music, dancing, costumes, photography, and sets, you will hardly notice. Oscar Levant and Nina Foch also star, and the last number of the film alone is worth the price of admission. Or the price of siting ont he sofa for 114 minutes. Trust me.

Some Like It Hot 1959
9PM Monday, July 8

How can anyone not like this film? One of the funniest ever written, and what a cast—a gorgeous and winsome Marilyn Monroe matched against Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in drag. Well, that’s only because they’re pretending to be part of an all-girl band in an effort to avoid the Mob, since they’ve seen the St. Valentine’s Day massacre and their lives are understandably in danger. Never has a ukelele been so fun to listen to. Non-stop, right from the start. Grab your popcorn or a cocktail and enjoy this, one of the greatest of all American comedies.

 The Teahouse of the August Moon  1956
2:30PM Tuesday, July 9

I found this late one sleepless night (it always happens that way), and once I got over the initial shock of Marlon Brando posing as a young Japanese man—which was difficult, but strangely enough, it works—well, I was drawn in to this, another laugh-out-loud comedy I suspect doesn’t have a wider viewership because of its subject matter, which is a real shame—but everyone who watches this comedy on my recommendation loves it. The original play Out of the frying pan? Schnormeier Gardens. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved(adapted from Vern Snelder’s book) won a Pulitzer for John Patrick; Glenn Ford considered it a favourite movie; Brando saw the play three times before being cast in the role of Japanese translator.

After the end of World War II, Colonel Fisby (Glenn Ford) is put in charge of the occupation of a Japanese village. As might be expected, Japanese and American ways don’t always gel, and both sides learn the other has some pretty darned good ideas. But the Japanese  eventually gain the upper hand, and Fisby finds himself building a teahouse that will at some point include a few geishas (there is already one in the village, and she simply won’t leave the befuddled colonel alone). Of course, there’s plain old American ingenuity that can’t be kept down, as other Americans in Japan learn upon the creation of Tobiki’s fabulous, ah, adult beverage.

Also starring Machiko Kyo (as the determined geisha), Eddie Albert, Paul Ford, Jun Negami, Harry Morgan, and Nijiko Kiyokawa, this is an extremely funny and warm-hearted movie.

 The Reckless Moment  1949
8PM Wednesday, July 10

Not this again!

Ben is Mr. Patient!

TCM is filling prime time Wednesday night with the picks of host Robert Osborne, and I’ve not seen any of the first three (that I recall—Trade Winds at 9:30 has a very familiar-sounding plot). Reckless Moment, based upon a short story from Ladies’ Home Journal,  sounds most interesting to me, though. Matriarch Lucia Harper, played by Joan Bennett (Dark Shadows and the better-known Father Of The Bride) in a pretty fab pair of glasses, has her hands full trying to hold her family together despite what appears to be an idyllic setting—life in a placid, easygoing beach resort town. Few things cause her more trouble than the behaviour of her daughter Beatrice (Geraldine Brooks); one of Beatrice’s loves goes too far, and she and her ever-protective mother find themselves backed into quite a corner—made worse by the entrance of James Mason, a heavy for whom knowledge is blackmail leverage. But even as he threatens not just Lucia and Beatrice but their glossy facade of middle-class innocence, he begins to fall for th mother, whose fierceness on behalf of her daughter impresses him. Good cast, good-sounding story, gorgeous photography (I caught a few trailers), and a film compared to some of Hitchcock’s best thrillers—I don’t think we’ll be disappointed!

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