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DVR Alert: Preston Sturges and more on 7/18

18 Jul

July 18 is another one of THOSE days on TCM, folks. Clear off those old Lawrence Welks; you’re going to need the room:

Larceny, Inc. (1942)
Directed by Lloyd Bacon
Shown from left: Barbara Jo Allen, Broderick Crawford, Edward Brophy, Edward G. Robinson, Jack Carson, Jane Wyman

10:30 a.m. – Larceny, Inc. (1942) – another Edward G. Robinson gangster comedy. Edward Brophy, people.

Then the Preston Sturges block begins – and just keeps going…

Preston-Sturges-0512:15 p.m. – Child of Manhattan (1933) – a melodrama based on a Sturges play;

1:30 p.m. – Christmas in July (1940) – a fun, oft-ignored early Sturges;

2:45 p.m. – Sullivan’s Travels (1941) – no introduction;

4:30 p.m. – Hail the Conquering Hero (1944) – the movie that made me fall in love with Sturges and a more-or-less spiritual sequel to Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, but far more subversive, in my opinion…;

6:15 p.m. – The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1947) – aka Mad Wednesday, this late Harold Lloyd vehicle by Sturges was hacked to ribbons and is much maligned, but were I running a series of Second Looks, this would be on the list;

8:00 p.m. – The Palm Beach Story (1942) – about which I’ve already written, is the day’s last Sturges and the first of Frank Rich’s guest programmer picks. The second is;

manchurianflower-clubcig3209:45 p.m. – The Manchurian Candidate (1962) – the famed glorious political thriller that’s somehow more up-to-the-minute than the remake from a couple of years ago, and featuring the garden club ladies who can easily ruin The Andy Griffith Show for you;

Rules_of_the_Game_SS_CurrentMidnight – The Rules of the Game (1939) – Jean Renoir’s sort-of-romantic- comedy satire that’s also always prominently featured atop  lots and lots of Best Movie Ever lists;

 

2:00 a.m. – Petulia (1968) – of which I know nothing beyond that it stars Julie Christie and George C. Scott, is directed by Richard Lester, and looks like this…PETULIA-6which means I’ll give it a shot;

And last but not least,

alicetoklas.105f4:00 a.m. – I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (1968) one of those grand slices of late-60s wacky, with Peter Sellers. When I was young, it was dated. Now it’s a period piece. The sine wave of comedy’s aging process is sometimes tough to track. Regardless, I love it.

Enjoy! That should keep anyone busy for a while. Hide from the ozone in the best way possible.

DVR Alert: Boy’s Night Out (1962)

17 Jul

boBoy’s Night Out (tonight on TCM at 1:30 a.m.) is by far one of, is not the finest, certainly my favorite in the long history of Bachelor Pad Movies. For set design alone, you need seek no other. Zowie.

Not a success at the time of its release, its comedy dates much better than most in the 1960s sex comedy genre -  I think it’s because while the men start out entertaining this weird, kinky, someone-read-a-Playboy-short-story mistress-sharing adultery fantasy, they’re fundamentally decent sorts who are just indulging in some faux-manly chest-thumping at each other that gets out of hand. This makes their 60s Guyness a lot easier to take. They aren’t 60s Guys but have been sold the idea of 60s Guys in the same way as, say, my Swingers-era generation. That they technically live in the 1960s just makes it more intriguing.

I’m not sure contemporary audiences laughed at what I laugh at in Boy’s Night Out (beyond the undying laugh of Tee Many Martoonis), but I’m sure all time periods can agree, if paying attention, on the glories of Howard Morris.

Morris, with whom I share a birthday, is my favorite part of anything he’s in (almost; Kim Novak is the star here, and I am a mere mortal) – cf. the Your Show of Shows sketch (from the Carl Reiner post) in which he plays the manic Uncle Goopy. His Howard here is relatively subdued compared to that or Ernest T. Bass, but his scenes with Novak are my favorites.

So enjoy this, a perfect 1:30 a.m. film if ever there was one.

Boys Night Out 2

Gidget (1959) & Beach Day on TCM

7 Jul

(A different Gidget movie will air on TCM on the first three Sundays in July at noon, starting with Gidget on July 7; also, the entire programming block from 6:30 a.m. through 8:00 p.m. on Monday, July 8 is beach crazy.)

Where the Boys Are HotelMy mother loves these movies. Some of it is generation-appropriate nostalgia. Some of it is what seems to be an inborn love of absolute fluff in her entertainment tastes – she’s going to read this and try to come up with some defense, and I’ll stop fighting it before she wears me down, but she knows I’m right.

I love them, too, but for very different reasons I’m not sure if I can articulate.

I have a fond memory of Mom’s indignance (I think she was ironing) at the gleeful reactions my sister and I were having to Where The Boys Are on our umpteenth viewing of it. We were laughing at the Wrong Parts, mostly the more obvious morality play parts (“Uh-oh – she’s enjoying herself as a sexual being. That means something terrible will happen to her”). And I’ve still gone out of my way to watch this movie more times that even I find plausible.

Gidget (just the first one – Gidget Goes Hawaiian and Gidget Goes to Rome don’t really do it for me, with the exception of Personal Hero Carl Reiner’s work in the former) is much the same to me – I understand its Oh, The Innocence value, but there’s so much deep time capsule value in there.

My mother and I disagree more strongly on the Frankie & Annette’s which, surprisingly, she doesn’t care for. I love them. Bikini Beach (the beginning) and Beach Blanket Bingo are…well, let’s talk about Harvey Lembeck, who’s making fun of a youth culture from fifteen or so years before, sort of (?), and unsuccessfully at that, both in the sense of missing what’s lampoonable and committing the more grievous crime of somehow never ever once being funny while doing it. It’s an amazing perfect record, and I kid you not I Can. Not. Look. Away. And that’s the least of what’s happening in there. Magic.

As to the rest of Monday’s beach day lineup, they’re more fun in a lump like this than they might be individually. Catalina Caper, familiar to MST3K lovers, makes its own charisma-free magic, as does It’s a Bikini World (which I’ve only seen once years ago; I’m going to have to look at that again), Palm Springs Weekend is just unwatchable, and For Those Who Think Young is unknown to me except as a vintage Pepsi slogan (apparently they bankrolled this movie) and a Mad Men episode. I hope it rains Monday.

Maybe someday if you’re really good I’ll explain the beach-movie-concept Tempest my wife and I came up with. It works, it’s terrific, and we only need a little money to make it happen…

Where the Boys Are 03

Don’t make me hit you with my ukulele, Animated GIF

7 Jul

I’ve had days like this…

Movies Silently

love-flower-richard-barthelmess-ukulele-animated

We’ve all had days like this so we can all sympathize with Richard Barthelmess. I’d hit more people with my ukulele if I didn’t happen to love my ukulele.

This is the only (intentionally) funny scene in The Love Flower. Cherish it.

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Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949) & Anchors Aweigh (1945)

2 Jul

anchors-aweighTake Me Out to the Ball Game and Anchors Aweigh (airing as a double feature on TCM July 4 beginning at 1:00 p.m.) are from an era of supremely well-made French pastry movies. They are full of highest quality ingredients and are also absolutely lacking in nutrition.

But maybe not absolutely. These are both screenplays of utter nonsense, but some find value in watching athletes working at their peak. And I am one – but these are my chosen athletes.

ballgameThe physical work of Gene Kelly and Esther Williams, the vocals of Frank Sinatra and (household favorite) Kathryn Grayson, the underrated Betty Garrett, the era-ubiquitous Jose Iturbi, Jerry Mouse…they provide me great comfort and great pleasure. They’re exactly as you think they’ll be, and with an éclair, who’s to say that’s a bad thing?

iturbi

DVR Alert: Zero Hour! (1957)

30 Jun

zerohour3ve6There’s precious little I can say about Zero Hour! (airing on TCM Monday, June 1 at 6:30 p.m.). It may be a perfectly fine little movie on its own merits but my generation will never know because it was the basis for Airplane!, about seventy percent of which is a direct scene-by-scene parody. So now the phantom of Airplane! hangs behind every scene, like the horns on the Beatles Anthology version of “Got to Get You Into My Life,” or a lost toe.

It’s as if the writers of Mystery Science Theater 3000 are sitting in the room with you but instead of jokes they just grin and raise knowing eyebrows at you. The work is already done.

Enjoy! And good luck – we’re all counting on you.

DVR Alert: Broadway Melody of 1936 (19something) and Robert Wildhack

30 Jun

bway 1936Tomorrow (Sunday) morning on TCM at 6:00 a.m., Broadway Melody of 1936 begins. It ends about an hour and forty minutes later, with you none the wiser (“If tomorrow is opening night, why is all the cast, including the choreographer and the producer, performing in a floor show across town?!?”) but much happier. Eleanor Powell’s French accent, too, is a surreal delight.

But I don’t think I need to add anything about Jack Benny, Robert (“Boy, he’s pretty.” – My Wife) Taylor, Eleanor (“Boy, she’s pretty.”  – Me) Powell or Buddy & Vilma Ebsen (during who’s dances you’ll think just once at random, “Barnaby Jones, ladies and gentlemen”). And the Freed/Brown score is filled with songs you already know from Singin’ In the Rain. So instead let’s talk for a moment about Robert Wildhack.

Robert Wildhack used to host a radio show in the early 1930s, according to the IMDB. He also did comic monologues in vaudeville (I’m assuming the snoring routine from this one was in his pocket from those days)  and was also a poster painter, responsible for things like:

and:wildhack

Lovely, no? And you thought he was just the snoring guy. More fascinating info here  and here about Wildhack.

I mention all this only because little turns like these and the people who performed them are the only record we have of the majority of vaudeville’s performers. This is our heritage, kiddoes…the Snoring Guy. (I kid. It’s a pretty solid act.)

Irene Dunne

29 Jun

(This post is part of the Funny Lady Blogathon, generously hosted by Movies, Silently. Take a look at the other posts, won’t you?)

At rest, Irene Dunne’s doesn’t seem like a face for comedy… too sad-eyed, too refined. The speaking voice, giving little clue to the legitimate-style pipes, lands somewhere between Susan Sarandon and Gracie Allen and is prone to weird little half-chuckling interjections.

idawful

But she has the trick – she really doesn’t treat her comic and dramatic roles any differently. Even to her more melodramatic romances like Love Affair and Penny Serenade, she brings a surprising comic verve (which is how to make a proper tearjerker: one can hardly pull the rug from under an audience without inviting it in for a drink) .

What’s such a pleasure about watching Dunne at work in comedy is the sense that from role to role it’s tricky to know what to expect of her, and yet she still brings her Dunne-ness, that refined air (Louisville-born, but the elocution and voice lessons paid off, despite her Southern schtick in My Favorite Wife) with a hint of the sort of eccentricity that was once just called “vivacity” but was always dangerous.

My own particular soft spot is for her terrible acting in character: the aforementioned loudmouthed Southern Gal in My Favorite Wife, as well as her weird little impressions of Cary Grant’s as-yet-unmet-by-her new wife Gail Patrick*; the lovely layers of her amusement as she pretends to be her husband’s brash and half-tanked sister “Lola” (apparently never a name for classy broads) in The Awful Truth.

tumblr_m98q7fS9ct1r4z5vfo1_400It seems only right that she did such high profile work with Cary Grant since she had the only chin that could compete with his. But she did fine work with all her partners. Her screwball set pieces were never cases of her running off on her own but always working in tandem. Her scenes with false-crisis-in-tweed Ralph Bellamy and his mother are as much fun as those with Grant in The Awful Truth. (And, ah, the dance contest. ) Even as straight man to her mooching family (including Lucille Ball and Alice Brady, who deserves her own post) and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in Joy of Living. And I don’t even have room to dig into her fun turn with Charles Boyer in Together Again and the lighter edges of her prim governess in Anna and the King of Siam.

image3dd2

My particular favorite has always been Theodora Goes Wild. It lets people – all of them really, not just the leads – behave with the utter foolishness of the burgeoning Screwball style and yet there’s a depth to their reasoning that makes the two halves of the movie play out in such a satisfying way. And Dunne’s chemistry with Melvyn Douglas is splendid, though in fairness she’s got a lot of solid character folks to work with. This is such an ensemble story that were it not for the aforementioned chemistry, it would be easy for one of the supporting cast to run off with it all.

But the supporting cast does not and cannot. There’s no outstripping the elegantly bizarre Irene Dunne.

—–

*Did Gail Patrick and Ralph Bellamy ever end up together in a movie? It would seem only fair considering how many times each of them was used as interference for The Real Couple…

DVR Alert: Casablanca & All Through the Night (1942)

26 Jun

I’m going to go ahead and assume you’ve seen Casablanca, which seems safe. Always worth seeing again – though privately I’m glad it’s on at 3:00 a.m., when I first saw it. I love this era of twenty-four classics, but I do sort of miss the up-all-night-to-catch-the-good-ones days.

allthroughthenight13But That Movie will be followed by its perfect Vichy Waterwine/cheese pairing, All Through the Night (airing on TCM at 5:00 a.m. “tonight”), made the same year, also starring Humphrey Bogart and Conrad Veidt, and also featuring Peter Lorre. But with Phil Silvers added! Admit it: that’s what Casablanca was always missing.

It’s a lovely, goofily anti-Nazi comedy with a bunch of hoods fighting The Bad Guys, hoods including Frank McHugh, William Demarest, and Edward Brophy. Set that DVR, or stay up for it. Such a lot of fun – and not just frivolous fun: laughing at this movie is proven to defeat Nazis. So, you know…get involved.

DVR Alert: To Be or Not to Be(1942)

23 Jun

To Be or Not To Be1I just noticed that To Be or Not to Be is on TCM at something ridiculous like 5:15 a.m. tomorrow (or tonight or however you look at that). If you’ve never…it’s just a beautiful thing. Forgetting even Jack Benny and Carole Lombard for a second, forget about it being right next to The Great Dictator as one of the finest WWII comedies made during the war itself… and remember Felix Bressart.

bressartIt is entirely possible that I am the only person besides Felix Bressart’s mother for whom he, in box office terms, could open a movie. But if Bressart is in it, I’m watching it. A magnificent character actor, not exclusively but usually comic. I’ve noted his magic before, but I just took a cursory spin past his IMDB page and seem to have seen something like 15 of his performances. Tip of the iceberg. And the hat. “A laugh is nothing to sneeze at.”

So, To Be or Not to Be. You deserve it. Perhaps I’ll go in depth later about why Benny’s dad stormed out of the movie the first time, but for now, just take a(nother) look.