TCM Top 5

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After a busy week and a half, things appear to be settling down (at least a little bit—every single one of our pets is on medication for one reason or another). Happily, the weather has levelled out as well—we were going through some wild, 30-degree temperature swings, from 90s to 60s! No wonder everybody around here is taking medicine.

A Damsel In Distress ’37
10AM Thursday

I can’t say I’ve seen this one, about a dancing star (Fred Astaire) who falls for a well-bred heiress (Joan Fontaine), because I have not. But in addition to the headline stars, you’ll also get to see George & Gracie Allen together! That alone makes it worth recommending, in my book. Also airing today—it’s all musicals during daytime—are Shall We Dance, a 1937 Fred & Ginger favourite of mine at 8AM, Doris Day in Tea For Two at 4:15, and An American in Paris at 6PM.

The Long, Long Trailer ’54
4PM Saturday

Vincente Minnelli directs Lucy & Desi (as well as a cameo by personal favourite Marjorie Main) in this lighthearted, very funny comedy about newlyweds who decide to honeymoon by heading cross-country in their just-purchased enormous RV. Desi’s never driven an RV before, *squeee*Lucy is overexcited and (portable) house-proud, and neither of them are quite sure how to camp. Or drive an RV. Particularly up mountainsides or through busy small towns. Granted, I’m particularly fond of this one because my parents’ RVs have gotten bigger and bigger AND BIGGER as the years have gone by, so some of the scenes in this film are familiar indeed (also: Lucy’s costumes, some of which are beautiful). But it’s a truly entertaining film no matter your camping experience or lack thereof.

Notorious ’46
10:15PM Sunday

These “Sundays With Hitch” TCM has been offering up make choosing just one flick on a Sunday very difficult—and this coming Sunday is no excuse, particularly as TCM is showing one of Hitchock’s underrated films and one I’ve hyped almost nonstop here, 1951’s Strangers On A Train (4PM, don’t miss it, or I WILL find you) and Dial M For Murder, one of the ultimate in the Diabolical Husband category.

But for tonight I choose Notorious. It’s a superb tale of espionage, thwarted passion, and a Diabolical Mother-In-Law (played by real-life German refugee and actress Leopoldine Konstantin), with American agent Devlin (Cary Grant) using Alicia (Ingrid Bergman), the daughter of a convicted Nazi, to infiltrate a ring of Nazi spies that have relocated to Brazil after the fall of the Third Reich. Though deeply in love with her, he has her marry Nazi Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains).

Engrossing from the start, Notorious is not to be missed, and an essential if one is to be well-educated regarding film; the way Hitch manipulates the audience is pretty astounding, really. Moreover, it’s almost physically painful to watch Grant’s Devlin cruelly, jealously thrust barb after verbal barb The face(s) of things to comeinto the heart of Alicia even as she does the very thing he wants her to do, intentionally wounding her even as he twists under the frustration he himself is in over knowing the woman he loves is with another man…because he put her there (see the click I linked to above for an example). More than once, watching this film, I’ve been tempted to shed a tear for the couple, attempting to deny their love by employing psychological brutality.

At the same time, Sebastian truly loves Alicia as well—tenderly, deeply, as only a man surprised by his good fortune of bride can be…but also fearfully, suspicious that she loves another man.

Notorious is also noteworthy as one of Hitch’s first true romances—and it remains, I think, perhaps his best shot at the genre, not least because of the film’s very famous kissing scene between Grant and Bergman. It’s very well-written, and all three stars turn in superb, flawless performances; Grant and Bergman especially have marvellous chemistry together, and Rains gives them someone else to play off of.

It truly is difficult to pick a favourite Hitchcock film. As you’ve seen this month, I’ve quite a few “favourites”—but this is very , very near the top of the list.

Penny Serenade, Random Harvest, Flamingo Road ’41, ’42, ’49
6AM, 8AM, & 10:15AM Monday

Let’s just call it “Ladies’ Day” and be done with it. Random Harvest, starring Greer Garson and Ronald Coleman, is an especially lovely, very romantic film with several interesting twists and I try to get everyone I know to watch it every time it airs. The story is beautiful and truly, well, romantic (there’s that word again), but there’s heartbreak and pain, too—in other words, it’s kind of like a real romance. Random Harvest is such a favourite of mine, I really hate to spill too much; just watch it.

Stagecoach ’39
8PM Monday

John Wayne’s first big film, Stagecoach is justly famous for not only that but for the first time we actually see the Duke—it is a simple and simply amazing shot of those soon-to-be-unforgettable steely eyes and chiseled face (I suspect “chiseled” really only earned its ability to describe a man’s features after the Duke showed up on the silver screen). But don’t watch this Western for that alone and turn it off; no, this is a marvellous film, one exceptional in any genre. Characters of interest, a stimulating story with thrills ’round the edges, and the beauty of the West itself make Stagecoach another essential film without which your movie education is, sadly, lacking.

Singin’ In The Rain, Double Indemnity, & The Bicycle Thief ’52, ’44, ’48
8PM, 10PM, 12AM Tuesday

THE THINKEROh, come on. Trifecta. Look at that prime-time lineup. LOOK AT IT. Do I need to say a word?

Bringing Up Baby ’38
8:45AM Wednesday

Wrapping up the week we have a comedy that’s a classic in every sense of the word! Hepburn, Grant, Baby the leopard, and all sorts of delightfully wacky hijinks in one of the finest screwball comedies Hollywood gave us. It’s a fast mover, so pay attention!

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