Some notes about what’s showing this week on Turner Classic Movies:
But first, an apology. I said last week that You’ve Got Mail was disappointing. I just rewatched it (since it is, slightly, a Christmas movie), and it was much better than I remembered. I think the passing time (it’s almost ten years old now) let me get past the goofy AOL plugs and focus more on the content. (Now, too, I have a fond nostalgia for when AOL was the top dog instead of an outdated failure.) Although I did ponder a bit why he gets everything he wants — the girl and the business success — while she has to cope with the loss of her family shop and the shock of finding out her love is her worst enemy.
Tonight on TCM is a focus on Claude Rains. I didn’t realize he was in all three of these outstanding classics.
Notorious (Saturday, 12/8, 8 PM ET) — A wonderful adventurous romance with Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant (swoon). I remember watching this the first time because it was mentioned in Remington Steele during a great episode where the two wind up getting drunk and pretending to be married, two excuses for revealing their feelings that drive a similarly sparkling romantic adventure. Of course, this Hitchcock classic is even better, as Bergman is sent into marriage to a Nazi as undercover work she undertakes to make up for her treasonous father at the same time she’s discovering feelings for her handler, Grant. Rains is the Nazi.
Casablanca (Saturday, 12/8, 10 PM ET) — What remains to be said about this gem? Rains is the French officer collaborating with the Nazis who’s only out for himself but does the right thing at the end when the chips are down. His charm makes the role more palatable.
Now, Voyager (Saturday, 12/8, Midnight ET) — Again, Rains is the essential support for the two leads. Bette Davis is the repressed spinster who blooms on a cruise. She discovers love with married Paul Heinreid (previously the triangle arm in Casablanca), only to realize it can never be. A tear-jerking melodrama about female sacrifice, and Rains is great as her caring psychoanalyst.
Meet John Doe (Sunday, 12/9, 9:30 PM ET) — I didn’t realize this was a Christmas film, but Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, and Frank Capra tackling social protest during the Depression all make for a potent cocktail.
Transgression (Monday, 12/10, 6 AM ET) — A definite period piece, but an enjoyable potboiler. Forgotten star (and personal favorite because I love the way she was the top money-maker while having a speech impediment) Kay Francis plays a young bride transformed by a year alone in Paris who has an affair. She sends her husband a letter breaking up with him only to attempt to stop it when she finds out the true nature of her new love. It’s an interesting insight into 30s views of love, fidelity, and character.
Man Wanted (Monday, 12/10, 10:30 AM ET) — Follow it up with another Francis, this one about a female executive with a male secretary. She falls in love with him, due to long hours working together, but since they both have other partners, what should they do?
If you’re interested in just how open and mature movies could be before the Hayes Code and movie rating systems were imposed, be sure to check out Wednesday evening’s night of pre-Code films directed by William Wellman. These movies often tackled sordid subjects with verve, that decade’s equivalent of the way HBO now pushes the boundaries of filmed entertainment. But for the best of the pre-Codes, check out
Baby Face (Thursday, 12/13, 12:30 PM ET) — Barbara Stanwyck at her height as a woman who sleeps her way to the top by bedding various bank employees. While viewing her stash of jewels and bonds: “Here’s half a million. Someday I’ll have the other half that goes with it.” Also on Thursday morning:
It Happened One Night (Thursday, 12/13, 7:30 AM ET) — The first film to sweep the “big four” Oscars, taking Best Actor, Actress, Director (Frank Capra), and Picture (as well as Writer, Robert Riskin). And it’s deserving. Claudette Colbert is the runaway heiress found and shepherded by reporter Clark Gable. As they travel across country on a bus during the Depression, they fall in love.
It’s followed by two of its remakes, both of which are far inferior. Eve Knew Her Apples strs Ann Miller and William Wright (who?) while You Can’t Run Away From It adds music to June Allyson and Jack Lemmon.