An excellent week coming up on TCM, with a few scattered cool things on other channels, but for the most part, this week is all TCM all the time, and I’m hardly exaggerating. Especially look out for the Frank Capra marathon on Friday, including some of his early works, which are a whole lot of fun, even if Capracorn isn’t quite your thing.
Monday, May 14
6:00pm – TCM – Stage Door
I cannot describe to you how much I love this film. I’m not sure it’s wholly rational. Katharine Hepburn plays an heiress who wants to make it on her own as an actress, so she moves (incognito) into a New York boarding house for aspiring actresses. Her roommate ends up being Ginger Rogers (who’s never been better or more acerbic), and the boarding house is rounded out with a young Lucille Ball, a young Eve Arden, a very young Ann Miller, and various others. The dialogue is crisp and everyone’s delivery matter-of-fact and perfectly timed, and the way the girls use humor to mask desperation makes most every moment simultaneously funny and tragic – so that when it does turn tragic, it doesn’t feel like a shift in mood, but a culmination of the inevitable.
1937 USA. Director: Gregory La Cava. Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou, Andrea Leeds, Gail Patrick, Eve Arden, Lucille Ball, Ann Miller, Constance Collier.
11:30pm – TCM – 100 Men and a Girl
Deanna Durbin was Universal’s answer to Judy Garland back in the 1930s and early ’40s, a fresh-faced ingenue with a grown-up sounding set of pipes. Deanna’s voice tends more toward the operatic than the pop, though, which could conceivably be a turn-off to modern audiences. She’s still delightful on screen, though, and this is one of her most charming films, playing a young girl determined to save her father’s struggling orchestra by getting renowned violinist Jascha Heifetz (playing himself) to play with them.
1938 USA. Director: Henry Koster. Starring: Deanna Durbin, Adolphe Menjou, Alice Brady, Jascha Heifetz, Eugene Pallette, Mischa Auer, Billy Gilbert.
Tuesday, May 15
10:00am – TCM – Lolita
“How could they make a movie of Lolita?” runs the tagline, and indeed, it’s hard to imagine anyone even trying in 1962 – both because of the pedophiliac content and the interior nature of the narrative, very difficult to reproduce in cinematic form. But Stanley Kubrick decided he was up to the task, and though it isn’t considered one of his best films, it still rates pretty highly.
1962 UK/USA. Director: Stanley Kubrick. Starring: James Mason, Sue Lyon, Shelley Winters.
12:45pm – TCM – Under Capricorn
A curiosity among Hitchcock’s films, more of a lush colonial melodrama than a thriller, which is at least one of the reasons it’s not very highly considered among his works. Personally, it’s my least favorite Hitchcock film, but apparently it was a favorite of the Cahiers critics (who championed Hitchcock in general, but this is an odd one to pick out), and I’m kind of curious to check it out again to see if it was merely my preconceptions that let me down.
1949 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Joseph Cotten, Ingrid Bergman, Michael Wilding, Margaret Leighton.
5:45pm – TCM – Niagara
Marilyn Monroe got a chance to play against type a bit as a calculating newlywed planning to off her husband during their honeymoon. Also unusual for what is basically a noirish crime film, it’s shot in color.
1953 USA. Director: Henry Hathaway. Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotten, Jean Peters.
8:00pm – TCM – Gun Crazy
A sort of proto-Bonnie & Clyde, with a pair of young lovers knocking over liquor stores and banks as they travel cross-country, indulging their love of guns and violence. This is one of the great unsung B-level noir films, though among noir lovers you’ll find it’s plenty sung, with Joseph H. Lewis bringing out the tragedy within the story’s pulp. Definitely don’t miss it if you’re into 1940s crime films.
1950 USA. Director: Joseph H. Lewis. Starring: Peggy Cummins, John Dall.
9:45pm – TCM – Remember the Night
Barbara Stanwyck is caught shoplifting just before Christmas. The prosecuting attorney, Fred MacMurray, puts off the trial till after Christmas and ends up feeling sorry for her, bailing her out, and taking her home with him so she won’t have to spend Christmas alone in jail. It’s fairly predictable what’s going to happen next, but as usual, Stanwyck makes relatively routine material worth watching. And of course, a Preston Sturges script doesn’t hurt either.
1940 USA. Director: Mitchell Leisen. Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, Beulah Bondi, Elizabeth Patterson, Sterling Holloway.
1:15am (16th) – TCM – The Ox-Bow Incident
A pair of drifters become the leaders of a lynch mob when they hear about a local cattle rustler and murderer. Ahead of its time in terms of psychological depth and shades-of-grey morality at a time when most westerns were pretty simplistic with clear good guys and bad guys.
1943 USA. Director: William A. Wellman. Starring: Henry Fonda, Dana Andrews, Anthony Quinn.
Wednesday, May 16
11:00am – TCM – Fort Apache
The first entry of John Ford’s informal Cavalry trilogy has John Wayne and Henry Fonda posted to the eponymous Fort following the Civil War, dealing with Indian uprisings, and delving in Fonda’s character of a man driven to reclaim his lost honor in the military by any means possible.
1948 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple.
1:15pm – TCM – Mister Roberts
Henry Fonda is the title character, an XO on a cargo ship who often butts heads with the captain (James Cagney), who runs the ship with an iron fist. The tone is a satisfying combination of comedy and drama, and with a cast that also includes William Powell in his last role and Jack Lemmon in one of his first, you can hardly go wrong. Though John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy share credit for the film, it’s mostly Ford – LeRoy was brought in to finish it when Ford had to undergo emergency surgery, but he tried to emulate Ford’s style as much as possible.
1955 USA. Director: John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy. Starring: Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell, Jack Lemmon, Betsy Palmer, Ward Bond.
8:00pm – TCM – Dead End
A highly-regarded crime drama from the classic gangster era, with a street gang of kids, an unemployed man, and a small-time crime boss gangster facing off over a chunk of turf in Manhattan’s East Side. Showcasing an early role for Humphrey Bogart.
1937 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Joel McCrea, Sylvia Sidney, Humphrey Bogart, Wendy Barrie, Claire Trevor, Allan Jenkins.
2:30am (17th) – TCM – These Three
Based on the play “The Children’s Hour,” this film abides by the Production Code by turning the play’s lesbian love affair between two teachers into a heterosexual love triangle between three, but retains the drama that erupts when a lying student implicates them in a scandal based on the intertwined relationships. Interestingly, Wyler would adapt the play again in 1961, retaining the original title and and implicit love affair, thanks to the relaxing hold of the Code. Despite the constrained morality, however, this one might be the stronger film.
1936 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Merle Oberon, Miriam Hopkins, Joel McCrea, Bonita Granville.
Thursday, May 17
8:00pm – IFC – Pitch Black
A better-than-expected B movie, with some great atmosphere and twists as a crashed spaceship strands a disparate group of people on a planet that’s not quite as lifeless and deserted as it seems. A nice genre calling card for Vin Diesel, and a great chance to see Claudia Black outside of her Farscape role.
2000 USA. Director: David N. Twohy. Starring: Vin Diesel, Claudia Black, Radha Mitchell.
(repeats at 10:15pm)
10:00pm – TCM – Call Northside 777
One of Jimmy Stewart’s first films after spending the war as a fighter pilot; he plays a reporter compelled to reopen an eleven-year-old murder case, coming to believe the wrong man was sentenced to life in prison. A good combo of film noir and mystery.
1948 USA. Director: Henry Hathaway. Starring: James Stewart, Richard Conte, Lee J. Cobb.
12:00M – TCM – The Wrong Man
Alfred Hitchcock made many films based on the idea of the wrong man being accused for some crime, but this is the most on-the-nose one. Innocent Henry Fonda is mistaken for a suspect in a crime, and undergoes a vast extended ordeal at the hands of the police and witnesses who constantly identify him as the criminal even though he is not. The effects on him and his family are devastating. Not one of Hitchcock’s very best, but worth watching for Fonda’s performance and the distillation of one of Hitchcock’s most prominent themes.
1956 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Henry Fonda, Vera Miles, Anthony Quayle, Harold J. Stone.
2:00am – TCM – Anatomy of a Murder
One of the best courtroom dramas ever made – James Stewart vs. George C. Scott as lawyers on a murder/rape trial that may not be quite what it seems. And that’s aside from the top-notch jazz score by Duke Ellington, which is in itself reason enough to see the film.
1959 USA. Director: Otto Preminger. Starring: James Stewart, George C. Scott, Lee Remick.
Friday, May 18
6:30am – TCM – The Miracle Woman
This early Frank Capra film follows a female religious leader (based on Aimee Semple MacPherson) whose fervor attracts the attention of a charlatan who exploits her explosive preaching style and message for his own profit. I liked this a lot more than I expected to, thanks in no small part to Barbara Stanwyck’s sensitive performance and more nuanced-than-expected treatment of the subject, though there is a fair bit of sentimentality thrown into the mix.
1931 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Sam Hardy, David Manners, Beryl Mercer.
8:15am – TCM – The Bitter Tea of General Yen
In what is certainly not one of Hollywood’s more racially sensitive films (though it has more nuance than you might expect for its time period), Barbara Stanwyck plays a bright-faced missionary to China who ends up captured by Chinese General Yen and finds herself falling in love with him. A strange, strange movie in many ways (not least of all the surrealistic photography); not wholly successful perhaps, but a very unusual entry in Frank Capra’s filmography.
1933 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Nils Asther, Toshia Mori, Walter Connolly.
9:45am – TCM – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Frank Capra puts on his idealist hat to tell the story of Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), an inexperienced young man appointed as a junior senator because the corrupt senior senator thinks he’ll be easy to control. But Smith doesn’t toe the party line, instead launching a filibuster for what he believes in. Wonderful comedienne Jean Arthur is the journalist who initially encourages Smith so she can get a great story from his seemingly inevitable downfall, but soon joins his cause.
1939 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Eugene Pallette, Thomas Mitchell.
12:00N – TCM – It Happened One Night
In 1934, It Happened One Night pulled off an Academy Award sweep that wouldn’t be repeated until 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, snagging awards for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, and Actress. Colbert is a rebellious heiress, determined to run away and marry against her father’s wishes. Along the way, she picks up Gable, a journalist who senses a juicy feature. This remains one of the most enjoyable comedies of all time, with great scenes like Colbert using her shapely legs rather than her thumb to catch a ride, Gable destroying undershirt sales by not wearing one, and a busload of people singing “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.”
1934 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert.
2:00pm – TCM – You Can’t Take It With You
Capra won his third directing Oscar for this film (the others were for It Happened One Night and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town), but to me it’s not one of his more interesting pieces. Young couple James Stewart and Jean Arthur invite chaos when his staid, wealthy family meets her wacky, irreverent one.
1938 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Spring Byington.
4:15pm – TCM – Lady for a Day
Said to be one of Frank Capra’s favorites among his own films; follows an aging apple-seller in Depression-era New York who has been leading her daughter in Europe to believe she’s a rich society matron. When the daughter plans to visit, she must figure out a way to keep up the ruse. A film basically built out of great 1930s character actors, and a wonderful one at that.
1933 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: May Robson, Warren William, Glenda Farrell, Ned Sparks, Guy Kibbee, Jean Parker.
6:00pm – TCM – Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
One of Frank Capra’s most whimsical films stars Gary Cooper as an unassuming country boy who suddenly inherits a great amount of money. When he decides to give it all away to whoever comes and asks for some, he garners a media frenzy, everyone thinking he’s crazy. Idealistic, warmly funny, and, yes, Capracorny. But as corn goes, it’s among the best. Also, any chance to see Jean Arthur is worth taking.
1936 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, George Bancroft, Lionel Stander, Douglass Dumbrille.
8:00pm – TCM – American Graffiti
Seems a little hard to believe now, but before George Lucas started in on Star Wars, he actually made other totally unrelated movies. Like this one, an excellent coming of age story set in the early 1960s, with a 1970s New Hollywood spin on it. Richard Dreyfuss before Jaws, Ron Howard back in the Happy Days days, Cindy Williams before Laverne & Shirley, Harrison Ford in a bit part, it’s a lot of good fun.
1973 USA. Director: George Lucas. Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Cindy Williams, Wolfman Jack.
Saturday, May 19
1:15pm – TCM – The Diary of Anne Frank
One of the most famous memoirs of Jews living in Nazi Germany becomes a fairly well-regarded film, with Millie Perkins taking on the role of young Anne, whose family goes into hiding as Nazi persecution increases, sharing their space with another family and struggling for survival and secrecy. Shelley Winters won her second Oscar for her role.
1959 USA. Director: George Stevens. Starring: Millie Perkins, Joseph Schildkraut, Shelley Winters, Richard Beymer.
4:30pm – TCM – Blackboard Jungle
Glenn Ford is the teacher who takes on rowdy inner-city kids in one of the earlier “heroic teacher” films. A young Sidney Poitier is one of the students, and a scene in which a record of “Rock Around the Clock” is played is reputed to be the first time rock n’ roll appeared in a film.
1955 USA. Director: Richard Brooks. Starring: Glenn Ford, Anne Francis, Louis Calhern, Sidney Poitier.
8:00pm – TCM – Wuthering Heights
William Wyler’s moody 1939 version of Emily Bronte’s moody gothic novel, with Laurence Olivier as the moody Heathcliff. Probably the best film version of the story up till now.
1939 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon, Geraldine Fitzgerald, David Niven, Flora Robson.
12:00M – TCM – The Outlaw
After being a successful aviator and before becoming a hopeless hypochondriac, Howard Hughes tried his hand at moviemaking, most notably with 1930′s Hell’s Angels and this 1943 film, notable for being Jane Russell’s first major role as well as for being suppressed/banned for a few years thanks to Russell’s frank and earthy sexuality. I actually haven’t seen it myself yet, so I can’t comment on its quality, but the story surrounding it is interesting enough for me to want to take a look.
1943 USA. Director: Howard Hughes. Starring: Jane Russell, Jack Buetel, Thomas Mitchell.
1:00am (20th) – IFC – Layer Cake
Sounds like an unusual title for a crime film, but it’s also an unusually solid crime film, with Daniel Craig in one of his breakthrough roles as a drug dealer given a couple of tough jobs just before planning to retire. Last jobs never go well, so you can kind of predict all won’t go as planned.
2004 UK. Director: Matthew Vaughn. Starring: Daniel Craig, Tom Hardy, Sally Hawkins, Burn Gorman.
(repeats at 3:15am on the 20th)
2:00am (20th) – TCM – The Grapes of Wrath
John Ford’s homage to the dust bowl farmers of the 1930s, taken from the Steinbeck classic, won several awards (including one for Ford) the year it came out. Despite sounding like a downer of a time, it really isn’t – the moody cinematography by Gregg Toland and the undertones of crime and corruption give it a noirish feel that both complements and offsets the social drama of the main story.
1940 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine, Charley Grapewin.
4:15am (20th) – TCM – Citizen Kane
Widely considered the greatest American film ever made, I’d be very surprised if anyone reading this hasn’t seen it. The quest for what makes publisher/politician Charles Foster Kane tick takes a journalist through a fractured narrative that never seems to give any definitive answers. Personally, I respect and recommend Kane for its innovations in narrative, cinematography, and cinema language, but I find it a difficult film to love (yet even that is fitting, as the difficulty of loving or being loved by Kane himself is a central theme).
1941 USA. Director: Orson Welles. Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead.
Sunday, May 20
8:15am – IFC – The Limey
A favorite around the Third Row, with Steven Soderbergh directing Terence Stamp as the title character, a British ex-con who heads to Los Angeles to try to solve (and presumably avenge) his daughter’s murder. I have yet to catch up with this one myself, but as a Soderbergh fan, it’s definitely on the horizon.
1999 USA. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: Terence Stamp, Lesley Ann Warren, Luis Guzmán, Barry Newman, Peter Fonda, Melissa George.
10:00am – TCM – The Great McGinty
The story goes that Preston Sturges, a well-regarded and successful screenwriter, took this script to Paramount and said he’d sell it to them for $10 if they let him direct it. They said yes, and thankfully the film was successful, opening the door not only for Sturges to become one of the best writer/directors of the 1940s, but also writers like Billy Wilder and others to make the jump into directing. The story involves a crooked politician and the fake marriage he concocts to gain voters.
1940 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Brian Donlevy, Muriel Angeles, Akim Tamiroff, Allyn Joslyn, William Demarest.
11:30am – TCM – The Seven Year Itch
Far from my favorite Billy Wilder movie – or Marilyn Monroe movie, for that matter, but it does contain one of Marilyn’s most iconic roles, the next-door-neighbor who infatuates middle-aged main character Tom Ewell as he becomes afflicted with the titular condition when his wife and family go on vacation for the summer. It’s a slight film that stretches the limits of incredulity to their breaking point, but watching Marilyn basically play herself is a fun time.
1955 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: Tom Ewell, Marilyn Monroe, Evelyn Keyes, Sonny Tufts.
5:30pm – TCM – The Spirit of St. Louis
A lesser Billy Wilder film perhaps, but a fairly solid biopic of Charles Lindbergh and his first solo flight across the Atlantic. A lot of it depends on Jimmy Stewart alone in a cockpit, but he’s up to the task, and it’s kind of a fascinating part of aviation history (okay, more fascinating if you’re from St. Louis, as Lindbergh and I both are).
1957 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: Jmaes Stewart, Murray Hamilton, Patricia Smith.
2:00am (21st) – TCM – The Rules of the Game
Considered one of the finest films of all time by many critics (routinely making Sight & Sound’s Best Films list, a top ten list polling notable critics once per decade), Jean Renoir’s film set on a bourgeois French estate just prior to the onset of WWII went a bit over my head when I saw it as a teenager, and I haven’t yet taken time to revisit it. From what I’ve heard, the nuances of class and social structure as well as the subtle comedy will probably work far better for me now.
1939 France. Director: Jean Renoir. Starring: Nora Gregor, Marcel Dalio, Paulette Dubost, Mila Parély, Jean Renoir.
4:45am (21st) – TCM – A Room with a View
One of Merchant-Ivory’s best films out of their many classy adaptations of period literary classics – and less, uh, stuffy than they often tend to be. For me, it vies only with Howards End (another E.M. Forster adaptation) in their repertoire. A young Helena Bonham Carter, a veteran Maggie Smith, and Daniel Day-Lewis in one of his earliest film roles, don’t hurt at all.
1985 UK. Director: James Ivory. Starring: Helen Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott, Julian Sands, Simon Callow, Judi Dench, Daniel Day-Lewis.