Some notes about what’s showing this week on Turner Classic Movies.
Shopworn (Sunday, 1/13, 6:30 AM ET) — Ah, Barbara Stanwyck. Flinty, strong, and always knew what was best for her and those around her. In this forgotten flick, she’s a waitress in a college town who hooks up with a well-to-do young man whose mother doesn’t like the relationship. Regardless of the obviousness of the plot, she’s always worth watching.
The Talk of the Town (Sunday, 1/13, Noon ET) — Someone tried to make this screwball comedy meaningful by making Cary Grant an escaped political prisoner (framed for burning a local factory) and Ronald Colman a law professor whom Jean Arthur tries to get to help him while both men compete for her. Sounds like a mix that can either provide a needed anchor for the frothiness, or a mishmash that prevents either from reaching the heights it could. Guess I’ll have to watch it and find out. With Grant and the sparkling Arthur, that shouldn’t be too much of a hardship, even if Grant’s hard to believe as a voice of the working man.
The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (Sunday, 1/13, 2:00 PM ET) — If you thought that one was weird, you’ve got to try this one. Talented comedian Betty Hutton is a wartime girl who sneaks out to attend a dance with lots of soldiers on their last night of leave. She wakes up the next day not remembering much of anything. (This is explained by showing us her getting her head knocked by a light fixture during a particularly energetic jitterbug. Wouldn’t want the audience to think she’d over-indulged!) She vaguely remembers a late-night elopement, but she can’t remember the soldier’s name, and then she realizes she’s pregnant. Standby boyfriend Eddie Bracken (too weedy to be drafted) is shanghaied into standing in for the anonymous dad, with complications ensuing around marriage licenses and such. His name is Norval, which is comedy in itself.
Her younger sister, who keeps trying to get her ditzy sibling out of the messes she finds herself in, is a great character played by Diana Lynn (also terrific in The Major and the Minor). Overprotective police chief dad is hilarious William Demarest. Very funny, very sharp in the way it points out hypocrisy, very surprising they even let it get made. Whenever I watch movies like this, part of the enjoyment is thinking “they expected people to behave how?” The surprising conclusion, where all is forgiven for a completely out-of-left-field reason, is the cherry on the top of the delightfully enjoyable sundae.
Sunday in New York (Sunday, 1/13, 4:00 PM ET) — From a very different era, 1963, this sex comedy features a young-and-innocent Jane Fonda as a “good girl” whose fiance dumps her because she won’t sleep with him. So she decides to find a guy and go all the way while visiting her, um, very popular pilot brother in New York, played by Cliff Robertson. Rod Taylor’s the guy she bumps into who gets elected. Very glossy, vaguely smutty for its time but nothing anything would blink at these days. It’s a lovely picture of the innocence of the era before America lost its virginity, presented as a farce, especially once all the characters assemble in a glorious apartment.
After Office Hours (Monday, 1/14, 7:15 AM ET) — Constance Bennett is a firecracker. Snappy and lovely, here she’s a society gal who gets involved with a hard-charging (is there any other kind?) newspaper editor (Clark Gable) during a murder case.
Manhattan Melodrama (Monday, 1/14, 2:00 PM ET) — First pairing of the two greats Myrna Loy and William Powell (who ended up making 14 films together). Two boyhood friends’ lives take them in very different directions, with Clark Gable winding up a gangster and Powell a prosecutor, although both love her. Lives up to its title, as juicy melodrama, but it’s better known today as the movie John Dillinger went to see before being ambushed and killed outside the theater. Before that airs Evelyn Prentice, another Powell/Loy pairing in which he’s an attorney, she’s the neglected wife in a courtroom thriller.
The Secret Bride (Monday, 1/14, 3:45 PM ET) — Another Barbara Stanwyck movie, this time with her as a governor’s daughter whose marriage is kept quiet for political reasons. Her husband, attorney general, is prosecuting her father for taking bribes. Gee, can’t imagine why anyone would think that was questionable.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Friday, 1/18, 6:00 PM ET) — A classic of the “meek worm turns” genre, with Danny Kaye as the schlub with a very active imagination. The visualizations of his exaggerated fantasy life demonstrate the range of Kaye’s talent, and then his character finds himself caught up in a real adventure.
Marked Woman (Saturday, 1/19, Midnight ET) — An astounding gangster movie in which Bette Davis leads a group of hookers (here called “night club hostesses”) in testifying against their gangster boss. Humphrey Bogart is the prosecutor who works to convince them to do so. Davis pushed for realism in the portrayal of the brutality of the lifestyle, and the female relationships are strong and well-done. (One of the other women, Mayo Methot, married Bogart soon after shooting.) Based on a real-life event involving Lucky Luciano. I don’t like a lot of noir, but the character drama here makes this one special.
Barbarella (Saturday, 1/19, 2:00 AM ET) — Another camp cult classic, with Jane Fonda as a comic-strip heroine who gets naked and has sex as a way of exploring the universe. Lots of interesting images and concepts, but the acting is as cardboard as the sets. Particularly notable are the killer kids with their fanged dolls. Cheesy!