A couple of favorites roll around again—which maybe shows that TCM’s programmers share my tastes, or perhaps just that their vaults are not as deep as they sometimes seem. On Thursday, 8 Sep at 3:30am TCM is showing the great Ealing Studios classic The Ladykillers (1955) starring Alec Guinness—and once again they’ve mislabeled this great black comedy as a “crime” picture. Then The Mouse That Roared (1959), with Peter Sellers and Jean Seberg, screens at 7am.
On Friday (at 5am), you can catch one of the great Spenser Tracy / Katharine Hepburn romantic comedies, Pat And Mike (1952). Hepburn is a multitalented athlete from an upper class background and Tracy is the fight promoter who takes her on as a client. At 10am, there’s a little known and seldom seen film from the great director, Nicholas Ray: Party Girl (1958), starring Cyd Charisse. At noon is a movie I’ve never heard of but am quite interested in: The Angel Wore Red (1960), directed by Nunnally Johnson and starring Dirk Bogarde and Ava Gardner as a priest and prostitute who fall in love during the Spanish Civil War. The synopsis makes it sound like sentimental rubbish, but I have a long-standing interest in the Spanish Civil War…
Michael Curtiz directed some terrific movies—including Captain Blood (1935) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) with Errol Flynn, Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Mildred Pierce (1945), and most famously Casablanca (1942). He was nominated for the Best Director Oscar five times, twice in one year (1938), and won for Casablanca. But he made a lot of movies—173 of them in a career that started in Hungary in 1915 and ended with his last movie in 1961, only one year before his death—and some of them were bound to be less than terrific. The ones showing Friday evening are in this latter category. Yankee Doodle Dandy proved that Curtiz could do decent work in a musical, but I’ll See You in My Dreams (1951) and The Jazz Singer (1953) are at best mediocre, demonstrations that musicals require more than interesting female leads—Doris Day in the former and Peggy Lee in the latter—and competent direction to succeed. Fortunately, TCM has some other Curtiz films playing this week.
Saturday morning (Sep 10) starts with a decent, albeit minor example of Curtiz’s work: the “Philo Vance” murder mystery The Kennel Murder Case (1933), starring Mary Astor and William Powell. Interesting trivia: both these actors have a connection to one of San Francisco’s adopted sons, Dashiell Hammett. Mary Astor is best know for her work as the wide-eyed and seemingly sympathetic, but endlessly duplicitous Brigid O’Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon (1941), based on the novel of the same name by Hammett. Similarly, William Powell is best remembered as Nick Charles in the “Thin Man” series, also based on a Hammett novel. The “Philo Vance” mysteries were immensely popular in their day, with 12 novels, 15 movies (from 1929-47), and a radio serial. These days, though, they’re largely forgotten, while other mystery series from that era are still known and watched. Powell appeared as Vance in four of the films, but it’s his work in the six “Thin Man” movies (from 1934-47) that is remembered these days. Basil Rathbone played Vance in the fourth film in the series, but it is his other series from that period, the “Sherlock Holmes” movies he did with Nigel Bruce, that is still watched today.
TCM is showing more “Philo Vance” movies on subsequent Saturday mornings, so you’ll get a chance to find out what made them popular at the time. But if Curtiz’s “Philo Vance” mystery is basically of interest to film scholars or as a curiousity, the rest of Saturday offers at least two unqualified treasures: The Caine Mutiny (1954), directed by Edward Dmytryk and starring Humphrey Bogart and Van Johnson, and The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner (1962), the classic “angry young man” film directed by Tony Richardson.
For the 9/11 anniversary, TCM pulls out all the stops. Sunday (Sep 11) is classics from start to finish—including Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig in The Pride Of The Yankees (1942) at 4:45am; one of the first and greatest American musicals, 42nd Street (1933) at 7am; Woody Allen’s masterpiece Annie Hall (1977) at 1:15pm; perhaps the finest and most important of all “integrated musicals” at 3pm, On the Town (1949); Curtiz’s masterpiece Casablanca (1942) at 5pm; and one of Howard Hawks’ best, and one of the best Westerns, Red River (1948), with John Wayne and Montgomery Clift, at 11pm. It’s an amazing day of film, selected in part by TCM’s guest programmers, two responders to the Twin Towers attacks.
Filed under: Movies, Classic Films, Film, TCM, television