Some notes about what’s showing this upcoming week on Turner Classic Movies:
Summer Under the Stars features the following lineup this week:
- Saturday — William Holden
- Sunday — James Stewart
- Monday — Robert Mitchum
- Tuesday — Jane Russell
- Wednesday — Dana Andrews
- Thursday — Myrna Loy
- Friday — Vincent Price
Which makes the weekdays something of a loss until Thursday.
Paris When It Sizzles (Saturday, 8/4, 11:45 AM ET) — A very modern (almost postmodern) treatment of writers’ block when it comes to screenwriting. Holden is the drunken hack (in its most basic sense: writing whatever his bosses want for money), and Audrey Hepburn his idealistic new secretary. He’s got to finish a film over the weekend, and as he talks about commercialism and what the audience expects to see, we see the scenes acted out with the help of an uncredited Tony Curtis. Not as funny as it could have been, but still worth watching.
But where’s my favorite Holden film, Sabrina?
Jimmy Stewart Sunday kicks off with a film where he’s supporting cast, Small Town Girl. The stars are Janet Gaynor and the ever-handsome Robert Taylor. He’s the rich guy driving through her small town, she’s the girl who marries him after a drunk night. Because it was made in 1936, of course marriage wins out, no matter the convolutions of plot and character it takes to get there. Still, it’s enjoyable watching two experienced stars go through their paces.
The Shop Around the Corner (Sunday, 8/5, 8 AM ET) — Stick around for this one, though, an excellent love story, set in 1940s Budapest and directed by Ernst Lubitsch, known for his wit and sophistication. It was recently remade as You’ve Got Mail, from which you may recognize the plot of pen pals who hate each other at work but fall in love through correspondence. Margaret Sullavan co-stars beautifully, and the whole movie is charming, especially to those who value the written word.
Jane Russell Day is a testament to her well-known talents, with The Outlaw, Underwater!, and two of the worst musicals ever made, The French Line and Gentlemen Marry Brunettes. And I don’t mean that in a Xanadu/cheesy/fun to watch way, but in a “why waste the time?” sense.
The Best Years of Our Lives (Wednesday, 8/8, 8 PM ET) — Dana Andrews Day, on the other hand, features two period pieces. This one is perhaps the classic post-World War II film, featuring the stories of three returning soldiers trying to fit back into daily life. It deservedly won 7 Oscars, plus an honorary for Harold Russell, a real-life double amputee who is the only person to win two for the same role. (They wanted to be sure to recognize him, thinking that he’d lose the competitive award to the more accomplished professional actors he was up against.) It’s still timely, pondering how war service changes those affected by it, whether fighters or those left behind.
Hot Rods to Hell (Thursday, 8/9, 4:15 AM ET) — This 1967 movie, in contrast, is of interest only because of its juvenile delinquent panic. A nice family is terrorized on the road by those terrible teen hot rodders. The heroic “normal” Americans are so square it hurts, while the bad kids are over-the-top and silly to today’s eyes.
The Thin Man (Thursday, 8/9, 9:30 AM ET) — For their focus on Myrna Loy, TCM is showing all six Thin Man movies, which unfortunately leaves the rest of her career with short shrift. Instead, I recommend another Powell/Loy combination:
Libeled Lady (Thursday, 8/9, 8 PM ET) — Which also has the advantage of co-starring the incomparable Jean Harlow and the blustery Spencer Tracy. Loy is a millionaire’s daughter who sues a newspaper for libel (ponder that in the era of Paris Hilton), and Powell is the ne’er-do-well hired to compromise her in order to force her to drop the suit. It’s a lovely frothy comedy that embodies “they don’t make them like that any more”.
The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (Thursday, 8/9, 11:30 PM ET) — I’m going to end with this idiocy, the kind of thing that only happens in the movies. Playboy Cary Grant winds up in front of judge Myrna Loy, who convinces him to date her teenage sister, played by an adolescent Shirley Temple. It’s funny past being ludicrous thanks to the talent involved.