Some notes about what’s showing this week on Turner Classic Movies.
Happy Easter! On Sunday, March 23, you get noble priests, preachers, and nuns, followed by this holiday musical:
Easter Parade (Sunday, 3/23, 1:00 PM ET, 1948) — Fred Astaire’s partner Ann Miller runs out on him for a more desirable catch, so he finds Judy Garland and trains her. Irving Berlin wrote the songs, including the classic title song. Astaire does a solo number in a toy store called “Drum Crazy” based on percussion that’s amusing, too.
That’s followed by two movies about the life of Christ. First, the “hippie musical” Godspell (Victor Garber, the Alias dad, as Jesus!), then the more traditional King of Kings.
Then, that evening, it’s Joan Crawford’s birthday! She’s known best today as a caricature (thank you, Faye Dunaway, and what happened to YOUR career?), but her performances, especially the early ones, are quite powerful. Watch the documentary at 8 PM ET to find out more about her career highlights. Whatever you think of the woman’s life, she was most definitely a Movie Star.
Mildred Pierce (Sunday, 3/23, 9:30 PM ET, 1945) — This one won her the Oscar. It’s one of the most famous women’s pictures, about a housewife who becomes a businesswoman to give her daughter everything she never had. The daughter’s spoiled and abuses her mother’s love. Based on a novel by James M. Cain, which is most obvious during the twists of the resolution. It’s not modern, but worth watching for its blend of noir and soap opera.
They’re also airing Torch Song (which I best remember from its Carol Burnett Show parody, and today is embarrassing due to a blackface number), an early silent film that shows her beginnings playing socialites, the multi-star Grand Hotel (in which she’s a stenographer with a taste for the companionship of rich men), and Dancing Lady (did you know that she was Fred Astaire’s first on-screen dance partner?).
The Women (Monday, 3/24, 10:00 AM ET, 1939) — The more women there are in a movie, the more diversity of roles you see, because they quit representing their gender and start being personalities. Norma Shearer is the formerly happy wife whose husband is fooling around with Joan Crawford, as a shopgirl who wants a better life. Rosalind Russell is the catty “friend” who tells tales, Paulette Goddard is the happy-go-lucky showgirl marrying for love, and there are other memorable women as well: the young girl who’s trying to cope with a much worse standard of living because her new husband earns much less than her daddy, the cosmopolitan Countess who takes divorce in stride, the forever-single authoress.
While the performances are superb, the message… not so much. There’s not a man in sight, and the movie still manages to be about them.
The Harvey Girls (Tuesday, 3/25, 3:15 AM ET, 1946) — Ah, the glorious days of big-budget movie-making. Judy Garland leads a squad of waitresses that “battle saloon girls to win the West for domesticity.” Basically, her girls, working under morals clauses for restaurants opening along the railroad, represent right and order, and they face off against a bunch of
whorehouse prostitutes dance-hall hostesses who are used to being the only girls in town. Angela Lansbury is the head hooker, and Roy Bolger also appears. All in a glorious Technicolor musical.