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?
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 (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.
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.
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.
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.