A few years ago, a website I used to visit would have posts about what was on Turner Classic Movies. These posts apparently bothered other posters, one of whom typed a missive entitled, “Who Gives a Flying F*** What’s on TCM?” This resulted in many of us posting about how “Who Gives a Flying F***” was one of the greatest films TCM had ever shown. And that it was followed by a sequel, “Who Gives a Flying F***: Ernestine’s Revenge” and inspired a string of musicals like, “Who Gives a Flying F***: Broadway Baby Blues” and science fiction films like “Who Gives a Flying F***: Episode III, The Revenge of the F***ery”. Anyway, the truth is, I DO give a flying whatever about what’s on TCM. And I know there are others out there so, for the classic film lovers out there, here’s a list of films I recommend which are coming up this week on Turner Classic Movies:
Sunday (June 30th)
8pm: Claudia (1943)
10pm: Claudia & David (1946)
If “Claudia” and “Claudia & David” are unfamiliar to you, it may be because they’ve never played on TCM before. The Dorothy McGuire/Robert Young melodramas were frequently shown on the old American Movie Classics channel before that wonderful network became today’s bland AMC.
Since then, these films have been little seen. The first–a favorite of mine and one I consider to be among those that started my love of Old Hollywood–is a comedy-drama about a young bride adapting to the married life she maybe isn’t prepared for but ultimately finds herself grown into. Based on a string of popular novels, 1943’s “Claudia” is an unsung classic movie adaptation of a hit Broadway play and features Dorothy McGuire in her screen debut.
The sequel, 1946’s “Claudia & David”, as sequels tend to do, pales by comparison. Different writers, directors, and tone make the sequel almost an entirely different affair, picking up the story years later and making the couiple almost unlikable in this round, But both remain worth seeing as the two stars work so well together. (They would do so in a few other films, most notably,1945’s “The Enchanted Cottage”.)
Monday (July 1, 2019)
10am: Gaby (1956)
Most classic film fans know Vivien Leigh’s 1940 weeper, “Waterloo Bridge” was a remake of an earlier film by the same title, a wonderfully-executed 1931 James Whale production starring Mae Clark (and, in a small role, Bette Davis). Both were based on a grim stage play by Robert Sherwood. But few seem to know that “Waterloo Bridge” was later remade, oddly, as a musical, in 1956.
Heavily sanitized and overwrought, 1956’s “Gaby” finds Leslie Caron screaming and weeping and running and doing all sorts of dramatic nonsense in a Technicolor, too-pure-for-the-subject-matter adaptation. Worth seeing for fans of either film adaptation, but annoying in its overly moral direction.
Tuesday (July 2, 2019)
1:30pm: The Affairs of Annabel (1938)
2:45pm: Annabel Takes a Tour (1938)
8:30pm: Metropolis (1926).
As sometimes happens, the daytime programming is a must-see. Though most of these films are mediocre, it’s a day of Lucille Ball films, and while she’s not always the star and sometimes more in the background, the winners of the day are the enjoyable-but-not-superb Annabel films, both from 1938: The Affairs of Annabel and Annabel Takes a Tour. In each, Ball plays a movie starlet suffering through her crazy press agent’s publicity stunts.
Primetime brings a whopper, though. One of the greats, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. There are multiple versions of this film; TCM will be showing the 148 minute version. The first time I saw “Metropolis”, it was a 1980’s re-issue with color-tinted imagery and music by composer Giorgio Moroder (Donna Summer, Berlin, Blondie, “Flashdance”). While lovely, it was a bit of a bastardization of the movie: well-intentioned but simplified to the point of harming its artistry. This 148-minute version is closest to Lang’s vision, though still missing about five minutes of footage. The story as to why the footage is missing is too convoluted and lengthy for me to explain here. The point is: Just freaking watch it. No one can seriously talk film–particularly science fiction or films about class differences–without having seen and studied this gem. Prescient in its thoughts about automation and class, thought-provoking in its biblical allegories, and stunning in its set design and ground-breaking imagery and effects, this is a movie that continues to be unequaled, almost 100 years after it was made.
Wednesday (July 3, 2019)
6:15pm: Laura (1944)
8:00pm: North by Northwest (1959)
10:30pm: My Fair Lady (1964)
1:30am: Casablanca (1942)
3:30am: Bringing Up Baby (1938)
5:15am: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
Prime time kicks off a bit early with a string of must-sees starting not at 8pm but 6:15pm with Dana Andrews in 1944’s film noir standard-bearer, Laura, starring Gene Tierney as the titular character and a supporting cast that includes a wonderfully-cast, pre-horror kingpin Vincent Price and scene-stealing Clifton Webb.
“Laura” is followed by a string of massive films: Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest”, which does for crop-dusting what “Psycho” did for shower curtains. Next up is 1964’s “My Fair Lady” which, to be honest, is a film I can not effing stand. I mean, I LOATHE this movie. I hate Audrey Hepburn in it (and I love Audrey Hepburn) and I find her obnoxiousness I it entirely unwatchable. But next to her and her dubbed singing voice–“In a musical? Why would you cast an actress who can’t sing in a musical?” asks “Torch Song”‘s Joan Crawford–is Rex Harrison who, even more annoyingly, does his “speak-singing” bullcrap where he doesn’t quite sing. . .doesn’t quite speak. It’s like rapping, in a way. Really. . .bad. . .rapping. The whole movie sucks, but it gets considered a classic so I guess my opinion doesn’t count. I think people just like it because the clothes, particularly in one scene, are fabulous. The four-star shitfest that is “My Fair Lady” is followed by that classic among classics, 1942’s “Casablanca”. A rather timely film, some of us might say, with that whole anti-Nazi thing. 3:30am sees Cary Grant return to our screens, accompanied by Katherine Hepburn, in the screwball classic “Bringing Up Baby”, in which he pronounces “I just went gay all of a sudden”. (Allegedly, Randolph Scott might beg to differ; the rest of us will never really know for certain.) Regardless, few screwball pairings were as great as this one, with Hepburn and Grant both at their madcap best. And at 5:15am, the Lana Turner/John Garfield classic–later ruined in a pornographic remake by Jessica (“Yes, She CAN Do Wrong”) Lange and Jack (“No, Jack, We Don’t Need to See That”) Nicholson–“The Postman Always Rings Twice.” Other than Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, it’s a night worth staying up for.
Thursday (July 4, 2019)
Unless Robert Preston in “The Music Man” is your thing–and he isn’t mine–or you love James Cagney in “Yankee Doodle Dandy” or you like musicals about people who all had syphyllis–“1776”–July 4th is not the best TCM day on record.
Friday (July 5, 2019)
8:00pm: The Wizard of Oz (1939)
10:00pm: 1939: Hollywood’s Greatest Year
11:15pm: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
1:30am: Gunga Din (1939)
However. . .if you like your musicals about little girls who nearly die in a natural disaster only to have a bizarre fever dream instead, TCM brings us “The Wizard of Oz” at 8pm, Friday night, kicking off a month-long Friday evening look at “Hollywood’s Greatest Year”, which happens to also be on certain “Gone With the Wind” boxed sets. (GWTW runs next Friday night). “1939: Hollywood’s Greatest Year” starts at 10pm and is followed by Charles Laughton as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” at 11:15pm and Cary Grant in “Gunga Din” at 1:30am.
Saturday (July 6, 2019)
4:15pm: The Wizard of Oz (1939)
6:15pm: The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)
Saturday brings little, including less-than-essential Essentials. But the afternoon brings an encore “The Wizard of Oz” followed by 1984’s “The Muppets Take Manhattan”.