Tag Archives: charles coburn

Charles Coburn Day on TCM–8/24

23 Aug

TCM’s August “Summer Under the Stars” programming is always hit and miss with me. Frequently (and they seem to be fighting this mightily in 2013) it ends up spending half its time celebrating some of more obvious actors and films that they show all year, more even than their “31 Days of Oscar.”

But, oh, that other half.

Earlier in the month, there was a day dedicated to Mary Boland; another to Wallace Beery; another to Ramon Navarro. All of which makes up mightily for the Bogart and Davis and Wood and people I love, I do, but have at my disposal and need little reminding about the careers of.

Charles Coburn1And tomorrow (Saturday, August 24) we shall all gather and celebrate Charles Coburn with an utterly ridiculous wealth of character work.

The nice thing about these days dedicated to character actors (Martin Balsam, Glenda Farrell, Boland, Beery) is that even when they show something familiar, the block gives a nice picture of a workhorse career, a focus on depth instead of breadth. Coburn played every plump older gentleman you can imagine, and was always Coburn, yet with differences – the mark of a true pro in the character world.

All of this will be clear when you look at the highlights of the lineup:

Vivacious Lady with James Stewart, Ginger Rogers and a truckload of collegiate Wacky, featuring one of the finest lady-fights on film;

Together Again with Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer – more late Screwball charm;

Made for Each Other, with Stewart again as well as Carole Lombard in a melodrama pulled up to greater heights by the cast;

Bachelor Mother, with Rogers;

Heaven Can Wait, a never-mentioned-enough gem with Gene Tierney and Aon Ameche;

The Lady Eve which just typing makes me want to drop my day and watch;

The More the Merrier, another oft-ignored little Screwball with Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea;

-plus a couple I haven’t seen: H.M. Pulham, Esq. and the semi-Lubitsch, A Royal Scandal.

Not too shabby for a man who didn’t work in Hollywood until his late 50s.


Looking Forward: The Captain is a Lady (1940)

26 Apr
The Captain is a Lady (1940)

Does he have a Bob Keeshan thing going on there, or is it me?

What really catches my eye when I browse TCM listings is a character actor with top billing. I share the worlds love for the Lombards and Loys and Coopers and Fondas. But there a joy to me in watching, say, The Mask of Dimitrios with Lorre and Greenstreet running the show on their own that’s entirely different from the joy of Casablanca.

The danger, of course, is what I think of as the Barney Fife Factor. You love Barney Fife. You look forward to a good Barney-centric episode. You applaud when he enters. But do you want a whole Barney series? History tells us this is hit-and-miss. Can you imagine an all-Kramer half-hour? And the less spoken of Enos, the better…

But Edward Everett Horton could carry a movie. Yes, he’s better when he springs in, delights, and flees; but if pressed, he can carry the weight. And frankly, what was Orson Welles if not a character actor who knew how to run a show? And get upset about frozen pea text.

So when I saw the listing for The Captain is a Lady, starring Charles Coburn and Beulah Bondi, I was understandably excited. The ideal Daddy Warbucks and the ideal Frances Perkins from the Annie-that-time-precluded, except in a movie I’d probably enjoy significantly more than Annie?  Sign me up!

I’ll meet you back here sometime in the days following May 3 at 11 a.m.