This Week on TCM
November 17, 2007

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

Withnail & I cover
Withnail & I
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Withnail & I (Saturday, 11/17, Midnight ET) — I tried this cult film years ago, and I didn’t get it. I’m giving it another try for three reasons:

  1. The cast — Paul McGann (Doctor Who in the TV movie) and Richard E. Grant (many many things, including Doctor Who in “The Curse of Fatal Death”)
  2. I’m a different person now
  3. Tracey Ullman is introducing it, and I’m looking forward to her explanation and praise

It might be a bit too far out of my time, though, since it was made in 1987 and set in 1969. And it seems to be all about drinking.

This month is all Guest Programmer nights, and Sunday it’s Graydon Carter. I had to look up who that was (editor of Vanity Fair), but I quite admire his taste in films — he’s selected The Philadelphia Story, Casablanca, North by Northwest, and

The Awful Truth cover
The Awful Truth
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The Awful Truth (Sunday, 11/18, 8:00 PM ET) — Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in a classic screwball comedy about a divorcing couple who screw up each other’s new loves because they’re really meant for each other. Leo McCarey won the 1937 Oscar for Best Director for it. This film set up some of the conventions of the genre, including the ex pretending to be lower class to upset new in-laws. Guest-starring Asta (The Thin Man) as the dog they fight for custody over.

Singin in the Rain cover
Singin’ in the Rain
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My favorite guest host, though, has to be Kermit the Frog (Wednesday, 11/21). He’s selected two classic musicals about the movies: Singin’ in the Rain and The Band Wagon. The first pretends to tell the story of the transition to sound films, and how careers were made and destroyed by it. The second satirizes artistic expectations as a waning star (played by Fred Astaire) returns to Broadway, picking audience-pleasing mass entertainment over pretentious art.

Both are self-referential, drawing aside the curtain of Hollywood pretense (but only so far). Both have large modern ballet set pieces, as was the trend during the 1950s when popular entertainment still had dreams of being educational and uplifting. Both have terrific songs and performances. Both are some of the best Hollywood ever put out.

The Band Wagon cover
The Band Wagon
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Later the puppet picks two doggie films, Lassie Come Home and Benji, which makes sense for the family audience (except for the beginning at 2 AM part). What I can’t figure out is what Cyrano de Bergerac is doing in between the two groups.

And that’s it for this week, unless you want to watch 16 Andy Hardy films. Along with Guest Programmer Month, during the days, TCM is running movie series from the 30s and 40s, which is truly a gift to the fan of the obscure.

Did you miss this writeup? I had a few months where nothing much seemed worth talking about, but I hope with the holidays, the schedule is improving.

8 Responses  
David Oakes writes:  

Wherefore Cyrano?

I suspect a story about a guy who has to hire someone to feed him his lines would have a strong personal ressonance with Kermit.

Johanna writes:  

Oh, clever! Of course.

Dave writes:  

I, for one, do look forward to your TCM recommendations for two reasons:

1)I often forget to check the listings and you usually list a couple choices that sound worthwhile. I am unfamiliar with The Band Wagon but Singin’ In The Rain is one of my very favorite movies so if you are putting it in that class, I’ll have to check it out.

2)There are a handful of critics in various fields whom I read regularly who, while I often disagree (mainly just on matters of personal taste), are skilled writers who present well-reasoned arguments. Doesn’t really matter what they are reviewing, either. Sometimes when said critic hates something, that makes me want to see/read/hear it all the more because I know the person’s taste well enough to decide whether the subject is for me. You are one of these critics. Nice job!

Ed Sizemore writes:  


October had a ton of great films to talk about. Unfortunately, none in a genre that your a particular fan of. I mean they showed TWO Ed Wood films last month, that alone is awesome.

I do like your TCM write ups. I’m always interested to see what movies you and why.

Johanna writes:  

Thanks, Dave! I’ve got another cued up already for next week, so I’m glad you enjoy them.

Ed, touche’.

Buzz writes:  

SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN and THE BAND WAGON are both great movies and good together as a double bill, but for those unfamiliar with THE BAND WAGON I recommend it because of its climax, “The Girl Hunters Ballet” which is a pastiche of Mickey Spillane starring Fred Astaire in the Mike Hammer role (!). Tons o’fun and for my money better than the “Broadway Melody” climax of SINGIN’ (though SINGIN’ narrowly edges it out as the better movie).

Colleen writes:  

I enjoy the write-ups as well – I haven’t seen “The Awful Truth” and I’m really looking forward to it.

This Week on TCM » Comics Worth Reading writes:  

[…] Theodora Goes Wild (Thursday, 12/20, 10:00 PM ET) — My favorite Irene Dunne movie, as she plays a protected small-town girl who’s really an author of shocking novels. Her double life is discovered by Melvyn Douglas (again!), who gets the tables turned on him when his divorce is prevented by his straight-laced father running for public office. There’s a bunch of other Dunne comedies this evening, too, if you’ve never seen, for example, The Awful Truth. […]


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