In honor of Barbara Stanwyck‘s 106th birthday on July 16, I asked TCM Party people their favorite Stanwyck movie. I personally feel that she was good to excellent in every movie she did, but everyone has one that stands out more than others. Actually not one. Usually many. As I quickly realized, it’s a tough choice to make. I also realized afterwards I had enough votes on my hands for a totally unscientific poll. Since I didn’t really specify a number of films, I counted each mention via Twitter and Facebook of a movie’s title as a vote for that movie. Yeah, yeah, I know…it’s completely unscientific!
Stanwyck, playing a con woman, sets her sights on “Hopsy” (Henry Fonda), the beer heir who can’t stand beer. Hopsy falls in love with her right away, but complications ensue when she realizes she loves him back.
I was surprised how highly this placed, but I really shouldn’t be. Stanwyck plays a homemaking columnist who lives in an apartment, can’t cook, isn’t married, and doesn’t have any kids. Her friend, chef Felix (S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall), provides all the recipes and she fakes the rest. The arrangement hits some hilarious snags when her editor (Sydney Greenstreet) wants a war hero (Dennis Morgan) to stay at her non-existent farm (she totally made it up) for the holidays.
No surprise here. Fine direction from Billy Wilder, stunning cinematography by John F. Seitz, and excellent performances from a perfect cast add up to possibly the best film noir — and one of the best films — ever made.
I know, I missed your favorite…mine didn’t get even one vote! (Hint: check out the feature image for this post.) So give me a piece of your mind in the comments. PS: if you like classic movies, and you watch them on Turner Classic Movies, you might want to join us for one of our live #TCMParty tweetalongs. For deets, follow @TCM_Party or get more info here.
TCM has some really intriguing stuff scheduled for this week. Crank up the DVR and let’s go…as usual, all times are Eastern.
Monday, July 16
TCM’s Classic Adventure series continues with a full 24 hours of rip-roaring action. Must-sees include The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936) with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland at 2:00 Eastern; Gunga Din (1939) starring Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Victor McLaglen at 4:00 p.m.; and The Thief of Baghdad (1924) with Douglas Fairbanks and Anna May Wong at 3:45 a.m. Tuesday.
Tuesday, July 17
Today kicks off with a couple of silents, The Sheik (1921) starring Rudolph Valentino, and Our Modern Maidens (1929) with soon-to-be newlyweds Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. The latter is the first of a block of eight ’20s and ’30s films directed by Jack Conway. Conway began as an actor in D. W. Griffiths’ Westerns and moved into directing, first at Universal, then at MGM, where he proved to be adept and prolific. He worked cost-effectively in all genres, bringing pictures in on time and within budget, a capability that endeared him to studio honchos Irving Thalberg and Louis B. Mayer. He is probably best known for A Tale of Two Cities (1935), starring Ronald Colman and Elizabeth Allan, and one of my all-time favorites, Libeled Lady (1936). Enjoy his work until George Cukor takes over at 8:00 p.m. tonight.
Star of the Month: Leslie Howard
I am a huge fan of Leslie Howard, but even I have to admit he was horribly miscast in Romeo and Juliet (1936), scheduled for 8:00 p.m. Though the film is gorgeous, Howard, in his forties, and his Juliet, Norma Shearer, in her mid-thirties, are both too old to portray a teenaged couple caught up in their first love. (Shakespearean scholars estimate that a real Romeo would have been 16 or 17 years of age and it’s directly mentioned in the text that Juliet has just turned 13.) But the rest of Howard’s films tonight — A Free Soul and Smilin’ Through, both also with Shearer, and Outward Bound (Howard’s Hollywood debut) and Captured! both with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. — look pretty interesting.
At 8:00 p.m., TCM is featuring The Science of Movie Making, a block co-hosted by sound designer Ben Burtt and visual effects supervisor Craig Barron, both Oscar-winners in their fields, who have chosen films that have inspired them.
Friday, July 20 Stanwyck Pre-codes ***TCM PARTY***
Presumably in honor of Ms. Stanwyck’s 105th birthday (July 16), TCM has scheduled four films she made before enforcement of Hollywood’s Motion Picture Production Code (aka Hays Code) began in 1934. The pre-codes include Shopworn (1932), Ten Cents A Dance (1931), Illicit (1931) and Forbidden (1932). Look for us on Twitter…watch and tweet along with #TCMParty.
Saturday, July 21 To Have and Have Not (1944) ***TCM PARTY***
In Martinique during World War II, a fishing-boat captain (Humphrey Bogart) gets mixed up with the French Resistance and a beautiful saloon singer (Lauren Bacall). This was Bacall’s first film and she was such a natural that screenwriter William Faulkner started adding to her part. The critics said it had “much more character than story” and that it was “confusing and klutzy, the ending is weak, and the secondary characters are poor substitutes for Casablanca‘s (1942) memorable cast of heroes and villains” but I think it’s great. Look for us on Twitter…watch and tweet along with #TCMParty. Guest hosted by @joelrwilliams1.
Sunday, July 22
If you haven’t seen Christmas in July (1940) at 10:30 a.m., Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) at 2:00 p.m., or The Great Escape (1963) at 8:00 p.m., definitely tune in for those. There’s a silent at 12:30 a.m. Monday, The Mating Call, and at 2:00 a.m. there’s The Leopard (Il gattopardo – 1963), starring Burt Lancaster and Alain Delon. Set in the early 1860s during the turmoil that preceded Italy’s unification, the film follows the slow fall of aristocratic Prince Fabrizio (Lancaster) and the parallel rise of upstart Tancredi (Delon). This film has lavish detail, gorgeously shot, and is unfortunately dubbed (you can’t have everything). It’s also a very poignant film, infused with a sense of nostalgia for a lost time and the inevitability of one generation letting another take over.
Back in December, TCM had a day of Myrna Loy films and I recorded a bunch of them, including a goofy little pre-code picture called Thirteen Women (1932). I have to say, though Loy is excellent in it, this is an extremely odd picture. She plays a mysterious psychotic named Ursula who was bullied at a posh school by a bunch of mean girls and has set out to get revenge on them. This she does in a peculiar and ludicrous way. Capitalizing on the spiritualism craze of the time and the mighty power of suggestion, Ursula sends each woman a fake astrological chart, accompanied by a letter predicting death, dismemberment, or other calamity. She signs the letters with the name of the fake swami she works for. Each recipient then becomes so obsessed with her letter that the prediction comes true.
I always knew Loy’s beauty was spellbinding, but in this, despite five pounds of spackle, she actually hypnotizes men. Fixed in her gaze, the “swami” passes out. Ditto the chauffeur she employs to do her evil bidding later on. She forces him to send Irene Dunne’s son poison candy, but Mom has the sense to get it tested at the police lab. The chemist says, “This candy is fine but it was tampered with. If anyone had eaten it, they’d have died.” Then it isn’t “fine”!The film is full of odd moments like that: The first classmates/victims are two sisters in a trapeze act..sort of a weird career choice for alumnae of the type of upper-crust school they were all supposed to have attended. And if you actually count, only 10 women are accounted for. I remember reading that 15 minutes were cut from the film somewhere along the way. Single moms who have the nerve to be happy, career women, and sex talk remain, so God only knows what was cut. Maybe it would make more sense with the missing piece. But I wouldn’t bet on it.
The film keeps asking us to identify with the sorority girls, portrayed by Irene Dunne, Kay Johnson, Florence Eldridge, and Peg Entwhistle, among others. But it also keeps showing us the remains of this group’s adolescent clique-y-ness and their complete gullibility, so that, though the maniacally evil Ursula has the most exaggerated eyeliner caught on celluloid until Divine made his debut, she is the most consistently watchable and interesting character. Mostly the film is a soap-y curio from a time when every house had a Ouija board. Don’t try to make too much sense of it, just suspend your disbelief and enjoy this showcase for Loy’s gorgeous looks and make-the-best-of-it dramatic talents.
TCM Week spotlights a highly subjective selection of the week’s essential or undiscovered films on the Turner Classic Movies channel to help plan movie viewing, DVR scheduling or TCM Party attendance. All times are EST.
Monday, March 19
8:00 p.m. This Sporting Life (1963)
10:00 p.m. Billy Liar (1963) ***TCM PARTY*** Guest hosted by @mercurie80
TCM continues the month-long British New Wave celebration tonight with our TCM Party selections This Sporting Life and Billy Liar, followed by Tom Jones (1963), Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964) and Only Two Can Play (1962). Billy Liar is another of Morrissey’s favorites that I’ve never seen. He used lines from it in Smiths’ songs “The Queen Is Dead” and “Vicar in a Tutu” and adapted another line for the album title Strangeways, Here We Come, among many borrowings. I’m recording all of these but the one I’ll probably watch right away is Tom Jones. I first saw it when I was in high school and over the years, I’ve come to realize that it pretty much defines the term “lighthearted romp.” Also, based on my AP English grade, it’s a pretty darn faithful adaptation of the novel.
Tuesday, March 20
6:15 p.m. The Moon and Sixpence (1942) George Sanders Alert
Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent in this film, which was “loosely inspired by the life of” painter Paul Gauguin. George Sanders plays a middle-class Brit who dumps his family and runs off to Paris to paint. He’s so callous and coldhearted that even I had trouble liking him…until he is redeemed by the love of a good Tahitian woman. Sanders at his worst, and for him that means best. If you don’t have cable, fear not…some nice person put the whole thing on YouTube.
8:00 p.m. Gold Diggers of 1933 ***TCM PARTY*** Guest hosted by @strbuk
Sassy Joan Blondell leads a trio of showgirls trying to become stars. They won’t turn down any marriage proposals from rich guys either. Did I mention it’s pre-code? It’s not all fun and games though—this film has a surprisingly dark undertone epitomized by the number “Remember My Forgotten Man.”
3:00 a.m. (Weds.) The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1932)
I’m only vaguely aware of what this film could be about, but it stars Barbara Stanwyck and is directed by Frank Capra, and that’s good enough for me.
Wednesday, March 21
It’s Karl Malden Day but I confess I’m not too interested in the Westerns of his they’ve got scheduled for tonight. I still miss Elizabeth Taylor and evidently someone at TCM does too; they’ve got seven of her movies in chronological order, beginning at 6:15 a.m. with Cynthia (1947) and continuing with Conspirator (1949), Love Is Better Than Ever (1952), Rhapsody (1954), Butterfield 8 (1960), The Sandpiper (1965) and The Comedians (1967). In Sandpiper and Comedians she stars with Richard Burton so I’ll be recording those. Tonight is also Casablanca Night, aka the biggest TCM Party in the world, brought to you by the channel and Fathom Events 🙂
Thursday, March 22
TCM has Radioactive Calamities and a couple of monster movies until 8 p.m. when they take a look at the films of Rosalind Russell’s later career.
Friday, March 23
8:00 p.m. Wuthering Heights (1939) ***TCM PARTY*** Guest hosted by @kimmiechem
Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff and Merle Oberon as Cathy in what many argue is the definitive version of Emily Brontë’s 1847 novel about a a poor boy brought up in a wealthy family and the foster sister with whom he falls hopelessly, passionately, violently in love. Followed by Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1944) at 10 p.m. and the Brontë family biopic Devotion (1946) with Ida Lupino as Emily, Olivia de Havilland as Charlotte, and Arthur Kennedy as Branwell, along with Sydney Greenstreet as another of my favorite writers, William Makepeace Thackeray, at 12:00 a.m. (Sat.).
Saturday, March 24
8:00 p.m. The Goodbye Girl (1977) ***TCM PARTY***
Can you picture Robert de Niro in the role played by Richard Dreyfuss in this? I can’t really, but it almost happened. Sort of, it’s complicated.
Sunday, March 25
6:00 a.m. That Certain Woman (1937)
Bette Davis plays a mother who sacrifices all so that her son can have a better life in this remake of a 1929 picture starring Gloria Swanson, The Trespasser. Davis requested Henry Fonda as her leading man.
Noon Key Largo (1948)
One of my essential film noirs, in which a gangster (Edward G. Robinson) holds a bunch of people, including a war veteran (Humphrey Bogart), and a hotel owner (Lionel Barrymore) and his daughter (Lauren Bacall), hostage during a storm.
Midnight La Roue (1922)
“In this silent film, a railway worker and his son fall in love with the same beautiful woman.” French, directed by Abel Gance.