This Week on TCM
March 15, 2009

Wow, it’s been almost a year since I did one of these. Here are some comments on noteworthy films showing this week on Turner Classic Movies, beginning today, March 15. (All times are Eastern.)

The Talk of the Town cover
The Talk of the Town
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Tonight at 9:45 it’s The Talk of the Town with Jean Arthur helping Cary Grant hide out after his wrongful arrest. Ronald Colman is her law professor tenant and rival for her romantic interest. Grant’s character promotes “Communist” ideals supporting the common man, which mean the whole town’s already convinced he’s guilty. It’s a lesser known screwball comedy with surprising undertones that’s well worth watching.

That’s followed by Nosferatu, the 1922 silent classic. These days, it’ll probably put me to sleep — I’ve seen too much about it, including Shadow of the Vampire — but if I’d had access to this during my vampire phase, I’d be loving it. I’m glad TCM is making it available for viewing.

Nosferatu cover
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Monday daytime, starting at 10:30 AM, is dedicated to Jerry Lewis, with five films, including The Nutty Professor. Some of these have really unusual premises, like Three on a Couch, where a psychiatrist’s fiance wants to cure her patients so she could stop working and marry him. (Unfortunately, it’s listed in The Fifty Worst Films of All Time and How They Got That Way.) Can I stand an hour and a half of Jerry Lewis on film, though?

The Nutty Professor cover
The Nutty Professor
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Wednesday morning features a couple of classics and something you have to see to believe. First, the good stuff: Holiday (8:15 AM) is my favorite Grant/Hepburn movie. Like Talk of the Town, it has something to say underneath the romantic back-and-forth, both about money (keep in mind why you’re trying to earn it; there are important things to do in life that have nothing to do with income) and women (the pampered life of a debutante warps them into decorations supporting the status quo). Plus, Edward Everett Horton and Jean Dixon as the older couple who are friends with Cary Grant’s character are wonderful, puncturing pretension smartly and nicely.

Then comes one of the best Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire movies, Top Hat. The plot is pointless, but the dancing is sensational.

That’s followed by Down to Earth, a forgettable Rita Hayworth vehicle. I mention it only because it’s the film that guilty pleasure classic Xanadu was based on. Rita is Terpsichore, the muse of dance, who is ticked off when a Broadway musical is made showing the muses as hoochie-coochie girls. She comes to earth and helps the producer remake the show artistically, which makes it flop. The numbers aren’t good, so aside from the plot inspiration, the only other reason to watch it is if you want to see how badly the characters from Here Comes Mr. Jordan are treated in this semi-sequel.

Ronald Reagan is the star of the month this month, and Wednesday night they’re airing a selection of movies to show “Reagan in Love”. He’s too stiff to be a great leading man, but the best of the bunch is One for the Book, from 1947. His rigidity works for him as a good-guy soldier on leave who winds up on a blind date with an aspiring actress (Eleanor Parker). He even stays over on the day bed in her apartment (shock!). The portrayal of a different time with other social expectations was part of what kept me involved with this film. She only has one phone in her apartment, and it’s kept in the bedroom on a special table. What they do for meals in a time before fast food. Her flighty friend played by Eve Arden. There’s some amusement here, in what I’d call Reagan’s best role.

Thursday morning, try a couple of really old (1932) potboilers. Thirteen Women (9:45 AM) is of note these days only because Myrna Loy plays “exotic” with bad eye makeup. She’s supposedly half-Oriental and kept out of a sorority for that reason. So she starts killing her former classmates. Since it’s pre-Code, the result is an atmospheric proto-slasher film. (According to IMDb, it’s also the only film of Peg Entwistle. She committed suicide two days after the film’s release by jumping off the H in the Hollywood sign.)

Also airing that morning is Jewel Robbery, in which William Powell is a suave thief, and the underrated Kay Francis is a tycoon’s wife who falls for him. Again, pre-Code, so evil doesn’t necessarily have to be punished, which means modern viewer expectations might be upset.

10 Responses  
Mark S. writes:  

Reagan was terrific in “King’s Row.” He also gave a fine performance in “The Hasty Heart.” Reagan was a solid character actor and a dependable B actor.

I recently watched him play opposite Lois Maxwell (yes, that Lois Maxwell) and a 21 year old Shirley Temple in a screen adaptation of “That Hagen Girl” that wasn’t too bad. He did broody and angsty pretty well for 1947. I liked the film enough to track down the book through inter-library loan…

Johanna writes:  

Oh, Hagen Girl — that’s the one where everyone thinks Temple is his illegitimate daughter, right, but they end up dating at the end? Oook.

Mark S. writes:  

That’s the one. It was sort of an odd ending. Still, I liked the movie for the performances. Didja know that Maxwell received a Golden Globe for being the most promising newcomer? Temple always thought it was the best Adult performance she gave…

And for the record, Reagan thought the ending wouldn’t work well with audiences.

Johanna writes:  

No, I didn’t know that. I like Temple best in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, but that’s got Cary Grant and Myrna Loy.

Mark S. writes:  

Agreed. I have that one on DVD. Part of a Cary Grant collection. Primary reason I bought that set was that movie and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.

Myrna Loy…*sigh*

Have you ever watched all the Thin Man movies? Or the box set? There’s a terrific extra dvd that has documentaries on both William Powell and Myrna Loy. Well worth watching, along with those great, goofy, funny, wonderul movies.

Sarah writes:  

Ooh, more Kay Francis. I was totally feeling the love in Stolen Holiday, though I have no idea why she went for the stiff instead of foxy Claude Rains!

John Steventon writes:  

My daughters and I watched a few episodes of Nancy Drew on TCM last week. I think they were from the 30’s, and besides the fun adventures of Nancy, it was fascinating to see the slice of life from the time, such as Nancy trying to cook on a honest-to-goodness wood stove. The second film showed Nancy’s friend as an Ice Man! He was actually delivering huge cubes of ice for people’s ice boxes.

These old films are a great way to see living history, although I am hoping that Nancy was the exception when it came to her deadly driving and wielding a gun. :0)

JOHN :0)

Johanna writes:  

Living history is a great way to put it. I love that aspect of even mediocre old movies.

tony writes:  

I liked the movie for the performances. I was totally feeling the love in Stolen Holiday.

Mitchell Craig writes:  

Actually, The Nutty Professor is one of Jerry Lewis’ best movies. It’s a bit shy of being classic, but it has the virtue of Jerry playing one of the most loathsome characters in the persona of Buddy Love. In his book Cult Movies, Danny Peary points out how Buddy resembles the Jerry Lewis we’ve been watching on his annual MDA telethons – art anticipating life, perhaps.


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