This Week on TCM
July 14, 2007

Some notes about what’s showing this upcoming week on Turner Classic Movies:

Murder on the Orient Express cover
Murder on the Orient Express
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Murder on the Orient Express (Saturday, 7/14, 4 PM ET) — A classic mystery with an all-star cast: Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Anthony Perkins, and Albert Finney as the egg-headed detective Hercule Poirot. I was never able to approach it fresh, myself, since Remington Steele spoiled the ending for me, but it’s a fascinating story filmed with great care. According to IMDB, “It was the only film adaptation in [Agatha Christie’s] lifetime that she was completely satisfied with.”

A Day at the Races cover
A Day at the Races
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A Day at the Races (Saturday, 7/14, Midnight ET) — I mention this because I hope that someone can explain the appeal of the Marx Brothers to me. I’ve tried to watch this and A Night at the Opera, and they work wonderfully for me as cures for insomnia. I can put one on, and invariably, after about 20 minutes, I’m asleep. I know that I’m at a disadvantage, since I’ve heard and seen too much about the classic bits, but … I’m hoping a fan can enlighten me.

Muscle Beach Party (Sunday, 7/15, 4 PM ET) — What a great choice for a summer Sunday, especially followed up by Elvis Presley’s Clambake. The beach was never like this — pretty people and pop songs — but it should have been.

Clambake cover
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Greed (Monday, 7/16, 12:15 AM ET) — Four hours of a lost silent classic. I’m not sure I’m going to make it all the way through, but I’m glad I have the opportunity to try.

In honor of what would have been Barbara Stanwyck‘s 100th birthday, they’re showing a wide range of her films on Monday the 16th. I recommend these in particular:

Ladies They Talk About — Women in prison! A cheesy hoot with an intense performance by her.

Christmas in Connecticut — My favorite holiday movie.

The Two Mrs. Carrolls — Humphrey Bogart as a tortured artist who tries to poison his wife with a glass of milk. Attempts to be suspenseful but too often laughable.

Baby Face — A must-see. One of the best of the pre-Code films, and one that shows you why they felt the Hayes Code was necessary to bring morality back to the movies. It’s amazing what they show (and imply) in this story of a girl raised in a speakeasy who sleeps her way to the top of a business empire. She’s never been stronger as an actress.

Swing High, Swing Low (Wednesday, 7/18, 8:15 AM ET) — Never seen this before, so can’t really recommend it, but I’m trying it because it stars comedienne Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray. I’m gaining new appreciation for him. Once you ignore his sleepwalking through My Three Sons, the guy was a talented actor and could even be surprisingly hot! (This rediscovery may even lead to my trying Captain Marvel again, now that I can better picture him.)

Cat Ballou cover
Cat Ballou
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Cat Ballou (Wednesday, 7/18, 6 PM ET) — Oh, you gotta see this one. It’s a comedy Western where Jane Fonda (during her sex kitten days, with all that big hair) is the daughter whose father’s land is wrongfully taken from her after he’s killed, so she turns outlaw cowboy to avenge him. (You remember the opening to Romancing the Stone (on tonight on Fox Classic Movies, by the way), when the author is narrating how Angelina is thinking about killing “the man who killed my father, raped and murdered my sister, burned my ranch, shot my dog, and stole my Bible”? Like that, only not quite as over the top. Comes close, though.)

Dwayne Hickman (Dobie Gillis) is one of her sidekicks, and Lee Marvin has a double role as both the drunken gunfighter they have to rehabilitate and the evil henchman with no nose out to kill them. He won the Best Actor Oscar for this. Scenes are punctuated by verses sung by two “wandering minstrels”: Stubby Kaye and Nat King Cole, of all people.

That’s a good place to wrap up. I know that’s only halfway through the week, but Thursday appears to feature horror films, and Friday is a salute to Esther Williams. I do recommend checking some of her movies out, if only to see how glamorous they can make a swimming pool, but none of them in particular are any better than the others.

10 Responses  
Justin writes:  

Cat Ballou … Awesome! I haven’t seen this one in a long time. Thanks for letting me know.

Ian Brill writes:  

Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races (the only MGM Marx brother worth considering) seem to take place in a romantic but unimaginative Hollywood world, complete with star crossed lovers with big dreams. The Marx Brothers themselves are these great wacky characters but they have to share time with these boring musical numbers and boring characters. A Night at the Opera in particular has classic comedy moments such as Groucho and Chico tearing up the contract. The movies as whole however are uneven.

The Paramount films, the best being Duck Soup, take place in a world that is totally the Marx Brothers. They are the characters that move the story along and they do all the musical numbers, such as Groucho’s “Hello, I Must Be Going” from Animal Crackers. Their world is one where nothing is sacred. Primal, childlike urges win out over the pomposity of polite, adult society. I think those are consistently much better films. Maybe you’ll like those better.

Barney writes:  

I was going to say exactly what Ian just said. So I’ll just agree. Of their films the last three Paramount films, Monkey Business, Horse Feathers and Duck Soup, are their best work.

Augie De Blieck Jr. writes:  

Go with ANIMAL CRACKERS or DUCK SOUP, if you want to see the best of the Marx Bros. It’s non-stop mayhem, and I love every minute of it. (OK, so I tend to skip over some of the song-and-dance numbers to go to the comedy bits, but other than THAT, I love every minute of it.)

I think your best bet, Johanna, would be DUCK SOUP, if just for the satire on the government that it represents.

Bill D. writes:  

Ditto on Duck Soup. Definitely the Brothers’ best film, and just hysterically funny to this day. I like Animal Crackers a lot, too, but I think it still suffers a bit from the tacked-on romantic subplots, IIRC. But you get “Hello, I Must Be Going,” “Hooray for Captain Spaulding,” and Groucho’s account of his African adventures all in rapid succession, which kinda makes up for it.

And as bad as it is, I enjoy Clambake, too. I think a lot of it is due to Bill Bixby. He seems to really enjoy playing the bad guy for a change.

And you’ve totally sold me on Cat Ballou. When we reactivate our Netflix list after our vacation, that’s going right on there.

Johanna writes:  

Ok, Duck Soup it is. Next time it airs I’ll give it a try. Thanks!

Seth writes:  

I didn’t realize you were a TCM fan?

As part of my new job I’m working with TCM on digital marketing.

Since you’re already calling out some of the films you like, why not link to them via TCMDB (http://www.tcmdb.com/) instead of IMdB?

Oh and I still like the new layout, even if it does mean you lost my design.

Johanna writes:  

Wow, that job sounds interesting!

Not to sound like a jerk, but what does TCMDB offer that IMDB doesn’t? I’m familiar with IMDB links, and I’m fairly confident that the URLs aren’t going to change or go away any time soon. What would be the benefit of using TCMDB? How are the two different?

Seth writes:  

TCM has access to a ton of trailers and clips that aren’t available to IMdB, mostly because IMdB is more focused on new theatrical releases and because TCM airs the classic films in question.

And TCMDB has been around for a while and it’s not going anywhere either.

Shoot me an email and we can discuss off-blog if you’d like.

This Week on TCM » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[…] for this to come around again on TCM since it was recommended to me as the best Marx Brothers movie three years ago. Last time it came on, I had some kind of conflict. Normally, watching the Marxes puts me to sleep […]


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