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