This Week on TCM
December 1, 2007

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

I’m sorry I’m late doing this this week. Tonight, December 1, the theme was “Triple Threats” (Writer/Actor/Directors), and I’m sure you can guess the usual suspects: Orson Welles, Warren Beatty, Woody Allen, etc. Which started me wondering: where are the women who write, direct, and act?

Waitress cover
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Coincidentally, I watched Waitress last night. This wonderful film was written, directed, and co-starred the late Adrienne Shelly. Her murder was a real loss, because she created a moving, funny, thoughtful film from a woman’s viewpoint. It has a perspective not often seen, one that doesn’t assume motherhood is automatically sweetness, light, and unquestioning love.

I was sad to realize I didn’t know of any other female writer/director/actors. I can think of several, like Penny Marshall, who became directors after they stopped acting, but as KC pointed out, older women often have trouble getting good roles and switch to another, related career. The only other AWD I found, after a little research, was Barbara Streisand, who has a writing credit for Yentl, and that movie, and especially her role, was pilloried. Are there others?

Sunday nights this month are Christmas double features, starting with a movie that later became the disappointing You’ve Got Mail:

The Shop Around the Corner cover
The Shop Around the Corner
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The Shop Around the Corner (Sunday, 12/2, 8 PM ET) — Much superior to its later remakes, this charming romance stars the luminous Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as feuding co-workers in a small Budapest shop who are secret pen pals. It’s obviously from another time in its love of quiet relationship development and the written word.

Speaking of remakes, the first one, the musical In the Good Old Summertime, is showing afterwards. Judy Garland and Van Johnson have the support of S.Z. Sakall, Spring Byington, and Buster Keaton, but they just aren’t as good or believable.

The Man Who Came to Dinner cover
The Man Who Came to Dinner
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There are a lot of other good movies on Sunday, too. The Man Who Came to Dinner (Sunday 12/2, 9:30 AM ET) — A crotchety classic. An urban author gets trapped in small-town Ohio when he slips on the ice and breaks his leg. To amuse himself, he starts matchmaking and meddling. Bette Davis is the meek secretary, a role that doesn’t quite fit her full personality.

My Favorite Year cover
My Favorite Year
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Then comes one of my favorite movies, My Favorite Year (Sunday, 12/2, 11:30 AM ET), a paean to the glory days of live television and the escapism of the movies. Peter O’Toole is a washed up swashbuckler (think Errol Flynn) who does a 50s variety show (think Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows) to pay back taxes. He’s a drunk, the mob is upset with a show parody, the young wannabe writer (Mark Linn-Baker) idolizes the star who helps him make time with his crush, a show assistant (Jessica Harper). It’s wonderful.

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Silk Stockings
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Another one of my favorite movies, Ninotchka, was remade with music as Silk Stockings (Monday, 12/3, 11 AM ET) — Cyd Charisse is the Russian agent sent to Paris who’s seduced by the city, its magic, and Fred Astaire as a movie producer. My favorite song from the film is his duet with Janis Paige, “Stereophonic Sound”, about how audience demands for movie effects constantly get bigger and bigger. Songs are by Cole Porter, by the way, so some good stuff there. Oh, and Peter Lorre is another Russian.

Waterloo Bridge (Tuesday, 12/4, 2:15 AM ET) — For a drastic change of tone, there’s this wartime drama starring the gorgeous-but-forgotten Robert Taylor and Vivian Leigh. They’re in love, he goes off to war (WWI), he’s reported dead, and she winds up hooking to support herself (although thanks to the Hayes Code, this is all told between the lines). Very dramatic and atmospheric about love and one’s place in society.

Let’s finish the week on a lighter note. Friday is apparently summer in December, with beach party and surfer movies including Gidget, Beach Party, and Where the Boys Are.

14 Responses  
James Schee writes:  

Julie Delpy was the only one I could find currently who did all three in movies. Apparently it was a common practice back in the silent movie days for women to do all of the above as well.

Tim O'Shea writes:  

Andy Griffith was great in Waitress. I’ve respected Shelly dating back to her films with Hal Hartley and I was relieved to hear (as sad as this sounds) it was murder rather than suicide (as originally speculated) that took her life. In a perfect world she would still be around to make many more films.

Carrie Fisher is a great script doctor, and her recent role in 30 Rock was classic. I guess you can count Liv Ullmann in the actor/writer/director column, but she’s not known for the latter two aspects.

In trying to find more examples, I ran across the following quote from Nora Ephron:

Writer-director Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail) describes why she believes there are so few women making films: “It’s a very male business, and it has in vast portions of it–the whole action movie part of it might as well be the United States Army in 1943, in that the ethics of it are boot camp and action movies and guns and explosions and all the rest of it, and that–so that means that–that about 50% of the business is not only pretty much closed off to women, but women don’t even wanna be in it.”

Martin Allen writes:  

Diane Keaton only wrote on one documentary (Heaven) that she also directed, but has directed a number of other things. Jennifer Jason Leigh did all three on the Anniversary Party; it got middling reaction, but I quite like it.

Sofia Coppola still does all three, of course. Opinions may vary, but she’s probably the one who has had the most success, if you average out over the three duties.

Anun writes:  

Rebecca Miller of Personal Velocity seems to be one AWD person, although her resume on IMDB suggests that she also turned to writing and directing after leaving acting behind.

Also, there’s Sarah Polley, who’s 28 and done all three quite handily from the looks of things. I haven’t seen anything by her yet, but since Away From Her does have Olympia Dukakis (who I adore), it may be worth checking out.

Johanna writes:  

Thanks, James. Two Days in Paris doesn’t sound like my kind of movie, but it’s good to see Delpy’s doing it as well.

I think I should have been a little more specific that I was looking for women who wrote, directed, and acted in the same movie, not had done those roles in different films at different times. More Woody Allen (auteur, much as I find that term pretentious) than Mel Gibson.

Tim, that quote reminds me, as I’m sure you knew it would, of the American superhero industry as well. And that’s very likely a big factor, that women aren’t encouraged to have or display the kind of ego moviemaking takes.

Oh, right, Anniversary Party, co-created with Alan Cumming. I think I need to see that again, since I don’t recall much of anything about it. Thanks, good reminder.

Anun, I’ll look at those. Appreciate it.

And yes, surprised to see Andy Griffith, but very pleased with his work.

Ian Brill writes:  

Elaine May of the brilliant comedy duo Nichols & May has had an interesting career. She revolutionized comedy with Mike Nichols. She directed the original Heartbreak Kid (which is great) as well as film called Mikey and Nicky, which she also wrote. Then she wrote and directed Ishtar, a notorious bomb but maybe it deserves to be reconsidered after all these years. She reunited with Mike Nichols to work on the screenplay for The Birdcage.

Tim O'Shea writes:  

I think Ishtar has aged to the point it’s far more palatable than initially apprised. Stack it up against the Pauly Shore canon, for instance, and it’s Citizen Kane level… :)

Sarah writes:  

If you like Shop Around the Corner, you might also like Lubitsch’s other best-known work, Trouble in Paradise. It’s a favorite of mine.

Johanna writes:  

Yes, I do like that film. I’m a fan of the forgotten Kay Francis, and she does a wonderful job in that, along with the bubbly Miriam Hopkins. It holds attention quite well for its age, favorably comparing to modern movies.

John writes:  

“Shop Around the Corner” is easily one of my top 5 favorite seasonal films – and just a great romantic comedy – and Stewart is just astonishingly great in it, as he was in so many things. Always glad to encounter others who appreciate it.

James Schee writes:  

Yeah it doesn’t sound like my kind of thing either. One interesting thing wwas fainding a page that listed women who did do all of these things in the same movie back in the silent movie age.

It said it was common practice back then for those on the set to just share duties to save costs.

I love Shop around the Corner as well, hopefully I’ll catch it.

Brian Pearce writes:  

I believe TCM did an evening of Ida Lupino-directed films several months ago. She doesn’t seem to have extensive writing credits, but she co-wrote at least one film, and she had a lengthy career behind the camera, both producing and directing.

This Week on TCM » Comics Worth Reading writes:  

[…] first, an apology. I said last week that You’ve Got Mail was disappointing. I just rewatched it (since it is, slightly, a […]

Bobbie Rose writes:  

My husband and I enjoyed Van Johnson & Judy Garland in “The Good Old Summertime”…so much so that we have seen it l0 times, so far. This movie is a classic of astounding proportions, and it makes one feel that there is still hope in this world for romance, music and good times. See it and enjoy!


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