TCM Cruise Report #3: What We Saw Tuesday & Wednesday

29 Oct

We’re at that point in our old movie watching lives, The Wife and I, that I’m pretty sure there were no movies on the TCM Cruise Screening list I’m about the put forward that we hadn’t seen. It had been many years ago for some, and others had been patchwork viewings and not start-to-finish affairs (one quite intentionally, but I’ll get to that in a bit). They’re none of them exactly dug from the cellars of obscurity, so I won’t get all review-y with them, but I’d like to note some impressions of seeing them on a big screen for in most cases the first time.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

A little introduction from Ben beforehand about Bernard Hermann’s love of this score and Ben’s his great-uncle’s lovely weird spectral romance included a list of as many movies with “ghost” in the title that he could come up with and his observation that they were all either comedy or horror and this was the only romance he could think of. (I was tempted to ask “What about Ghost?” but I’m not that much of a jerk.)

My word, the cinematography, though. This immediately becomes a film I always thought was nice and all, but became incredibly moving when all the details were available to my eye.

And that’s going to be the thread here – so many of these I had seen so many times, but a large, clear, full-screen viewing on snappy Disney ship sound systems makes them into new movies entirely. Louisville had a revival house in my college days, but the Vogue died around ‘98 (the marquee is still there because it’s all cute and Deco and there ought to be a law that if you won’t leave the cinema standing you do NOT get to keep the marquee for “architectural color,” bastard landlords of the world. But I digress).

For example, a couple of hours before TG&MM, we saw

House of Wax in 3D

which, aside from its insane paddleball sequence (by Reggie Rymal, who had a career of his own, thank you, as is evident around 4:20 here:

)

features some lovely depth work of the Viewmaster school during all the time can-can girls aren’t in your lap. I will say I was surprised the line “You never saw a show like this in Provincetown” didn’t get a bigger laugh, but to each his own.

After a day in Bahamian hammocks at Castaway Cay, the next evening brought a prime example of what I’m talking about.

The Palm Beach Story

isn’t even my favorite Sturges, but it seems to be going through a new period of appreciation (there’s a Criterion on the way) and it was, if I may risk spraining my Caps Lock key, MAGNIFICENT with an audience and a proper screen size. Tiny, tiny things like Mary Astor’s shifts of eye focus from one part of Captain McGlue to another or the visible shards of pince nez on Rudy Vallee’s face got laughs of their own. And the rhythm of any comedy from this era makes more sense with multiple viewers instead of lonely, lonely movie geeks at home rather wishing they were more effective evangelists.

(That one was preceded by a fun little Bruce Goldstein montage of some of the wildly varied character actor faces from the Sturges stable and beyond. Nice to be in an audience where Frank McHugh gets some applause recognition.)

The next one I’ve seen several times on the big screen, and

Rear Window

has been spoken of plenty, but I will note that recent news about some remodeling at Disney Hollywood Studios made us riff for a while on what a TCM/Disney partnership would look like there: some college students dressed as giant plastic-headed Bob & Ben; Illeana is already there on the Aerosmith ride, but she’d have a more prominent role as real estate guide on the Mr. Blandings (wild) ride (Melvyn’s narration would be worked in, too) . Clearly our plans also involved a life size replica of the view out Jeff’s rear window. Though I’m sure the people who own the rights to the Chipmunks would find a way to fight Disney on that. (Geek joke.)

rear windowWe split, The Wife and I, for a while because she cannot be restrained from Errol Flynn, and while I love to see a buckle well swashed, simultaneous to The Sea Hawk was the reason I was excited about this cruise in the first place,

Elmer Gantry

which I haven’t seen in years but which I fell in love with at 13 or 14. Weird kid. It holds up well, and while I remember it looking more, shall we say, 1960s, the production design at proper scale was lovely – the textures of Lancaster’s seedy salesman wardrobe and those of the rural congregations were downright distracting, as were the wallpapers, the general hues and, of course, Shirley Jones. But Lulu was always distracting. Maybe I wasn’t such a weird kid.

That’s plenty, isn’t it? Well, we had three more days of this mishegoss, two of them entirely at sea with no port to distract from the matter at hand. More tomorrow.

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