Some notes about what’s showing this week on Turner Classic Movies.
Stardust Memories (Sunday, 1/27, 1:00 PM ET, 1980) — Woody Allen movies are mostly a miss for me, but I’m intrigued by the premise of this one. A comedian goes to a film festival, where he finds that attendees prefer his earlier, lighter work. Obviously, it’s another “all about Woody” movie, but I’m interested enough in the topic to overlook that.
(Odd that this film is only available on DVD as part of a box set. And one we happen to own — but that happens sometimes, where I don’t bother to choose to watch something, but if it wanders by on TV, I’ll check it out.)
Pajama Party (Sunday, 1/27, 2:30 PM ET, 1964) — With Ski Party, the rarest of the beach party movies. One could even quibble whether it was properly part of that series, but it’s got the same formula and most of the same cast. I’ve talked about it in more depth at that link, but in short: no Frankie, an odd “Martian comes to Earth” plot, but good music, surprising cameos, and Annette’s paean to stuffed toys.
Red Headed Woman (Tuesday, 1/29, 6:00 AM ET, 1932) — Looks like Tuesday is Jean Harlow day! If you’ve never seen one of her films, you owe it to yourself to check out the original blonde bombshell.
6 AM is a little early for this much sex on screen, but Red Headed Woman is one of her best, made before the Hays Code was put in place. She’s an unrepentant gold digger, looking to marry well by breaking up the boss’ marriage. Drama and heartbreak result. Anita Loos (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) scripted with assistance from an uncredited F. Scott Fitzgerald, reportedly.
You get the gist of things from an early scene, where Harlow, trying on dresses, stands in front of a window and asks the shopgirl whether you can see through what she’s got on. Upon hearing, “I’m afraid you can, miss,” she replies, “I’ll wear it.”
Hold Your Man (Tuesday, 1/29, 7:30 AM ET, 1933) — It’s followed by Harlow with Clark Gable in a gangster-style picture. He’s on the lam, crashes into her apartment, hides in her bathtub full of soap suds, and they fall in love. She winds up being jailed, eventually, allowing for a women-in-prison setup where he has to risk arrest to marry her before her baby (!) is due.
The Girl from Missouri (Tuesday, 1/29, 9:00 AM ET, 1934) — Compare this to Red Headed Woman, since the plots are similar but this one was after the Code was imposed. In this version, Harlow is still out to marry well, but she makes a big deal of keeping her “virtue” until the ceremony. Franchot Tone plays the son, Lionel Barrymore the father of the rich family she gets her hooks in. (She aims for dad but will settle for sonny.) It’s funnier than RHW, which is more soap opera. Can’t have too much sex, replace it with laughter, I guess.
Reckless (Tuesday, 1/29, 10:15 AM ET, 1935) — I’m not as fond of this one, although it’s got her true-life love William Powell in it (as her character’s lawyer, secretly in love with her). It’s about a torch singer who marries a well-off drunk who kills himself (Franchot Tone again), and how she deals with his society friends and the eventual scandal, including being suspected of his murder. Harlow’s second husband committed suicide under odd circumstances, and it’s speculated that this was intended to cash in on the gossip. This movie didn’t do well, perhaps because Harlow just isn’t that believable as a musical star. Powell’s very good as always, though.
Personal Property (Tuesday, 1/29, Noon ET, 1937) — Oh, I’d forgotten about this one. Robert Taylor, one of my faves and one of the handsomest men ever, plays her fiance’s brother whom she thinks is a bill collector (because her previous husband left her in debt when she died). It’s obviously based on a play, but fun comedy all the same.
Saratoga (Tuesday, 1/29, 1:30 PM ET, 1937) — Her last film, assembled after her death, and another pairing with Clark Gable. I don’t care much for it because she’s missing from too much of the movie and the horse racing plot is nothing special.
What all this is reminding me: where’s the Harlow Collection box set of all of these? I guess I’ll just have to make my own. God bless technology.