Some notes about what’s showing this week on Turner Classic Movies:
If you’re a Cary Grant fan, it’s a great week, with some of his weirder movies available. First up, Grant as an angel.
The Bishop’s Wife (Sunday, 12/16, 2:00 PM ET) — David Niven has been neglecting wife Loretta Young in favor of fund-raising, so Grant arrives to teach him a lesson. It’s often shown at Christmastime, and the message is good (pay attention to family), but it never quite works for me. Possibly because the “and now you’ll all forget my presence” twist (normal for films with characters of this type) seems so necessary this time; otherwise, who would choose distracted Niven over attention-paying Grant?
That’s followed by Grant as possible murderer, with Suspicion (which I’ve already talked about) at 4 PM. After a break for heartwarming homey holiday movies — Meet Me in St. Louis and Love Finds Andy Hardy — it’s back to Grant tomorrow.
Penny Serenade (Monday, 12/17, 8:00 AM ET) — A change of pace from Grant’s usual romantic comedy, this tear-jerker covers the life of a married couple as they try to adopt a child. Lovely Irene Dunne makes a great counterpart (although I prefer the two together in My Favorite Wife, an odd comedy about a woman presumed dead that’s showing Friday morning at 3:15 AM).
Once Upon a Honeymoon (Monday, 12/17, 10:00 AM ET) — Should have been much better than it was. Co-stars Ginger Rogers as a former showgirl marrying a baron who’s working for the Nazis. Grant as a reporter (not really believable) is following her through war-time Europe to get the goods on her husband. Muddled; doesn’t blend the various elements of comedy, tragedy, and adventure at all well.
Then there’s The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, an icky cross-generational romance I’ve talked about before; Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, with the lovely Myrna Loy; and Every Girl Should Be Married, best known now for co-starring Betsy Drake, whom he later married.
Annie Oakley (Tuesday, 10/18, 9:15 AM ET) — Hunh, I never knew that there was an early, non-musical version of this story starring Barbara Stanwyck (rah!) and my fave Melvyn Douglas. Cool. Just when I think I’ve seen all the good ones comes along new possibilities.
They All Kissed the Bride (Wednesday, 7:30 AM ET) — Speaking of Melvyn, here he is again co-starring with Joan Crawford, who plays the lady boss of a trucking company. He’s a reporter investigating her business practices. I bet he’s more believable than Grant, even if the film was a flop. It was originally supposed to star Carole Lombard until her untimely death.
Lady of Burlesque (Thursday, 12/20, 4:15 AM ET) — And here’s Stanwyck in this adaptation of Gypsy Rose Lee’s “The G-String Murders”. This was actually Oscar-nominated for Best Score, and it’s pretty good, especially if you like backstage pictures.
Idiot’s Delight (Thursday, 12/20, 6:00 PM ET) — A real curiosity. Clark Gable as a song-and-dance man (he does “Puttin’ on the Ritz”! his only dance number on film!) trapped behind enemy lines as WW II breaks out (sounds like acne) with Norma Shearer as a fake Russian countess. Great fun, if you can set aside the very real fearful background (which gives it some of its charm, by contrast).
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.
That’s plenty for this week, I think. If you like tearjerkers, Friday night’s theme is “Dying Young”, in which attractive women succumb with few disfiguring symptoms while wishing those in their lives find new love and move on. (Dark Victory, which is really pretty good because it stars Bette Davis; Love Story; and No Sad Songs for Me, which at least features an older woman.)