Here are some comments on noteworthy films showing this week on Turner Classic Movies, beginning Monday, March 23. (All times are Eastern.)
Let’s start with some congratulations. One of the things TCM does really well is promote upcoming DVD sets. On Tuesday, the latest Forbidden Hollywood collection, featuring pre-Code movies, comes out, so on Monday, beginning at 8 PM, they’re running all the films in the set. Since many of these movies aren’t well-known (although fascinating), it’s a great way to check out the set and perhaps sell more copies to those who otherwise wouldn’t know what these wonderful films are all about. In this box, all of the movies are directed by William Wellman, so also airing that evening is a documentary on his career (it’s included on the set as well).
The set includes several commentaries and some cartoons and trailers, so there are still features exclusive to that package. I recommend the previous two sets, too. The second has a documentary on the period in addition to a great selection, while the first contains THE classic pre-Code, Baby Face.
Tuesday night spotlights the classic animation director Chuck Jones with the debut of an original documentary on his career. Then they run a ton of his best cartoons (twice each), including “One Froggy Evening”, “What’s Opera, Doc?”, “Duck Amuck”, and my favorite, The Dot and the Line.
Friday at 6 AM comes a historical piece of great significance: a restored version of Beyond the Rocks, a 1922 silent thought lost for decades. It’s notable for starring two superstars of the era, Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino. Her acting style (and look, since she appears 40 while supposed to be 18 and in her mid-20s in real life) takes some getting used to, but I’m just amazed we have the ability to see 80-year-old cinema.
On Sunday at 4 PM (perfect timing!) airs one of my favorite “guilty pleasures”, a glossy slice of cheese that captures a particular time period. 1963’s Sunday in New York stars Jane Fonda as a “nice girl” whose fiance (Robert Culp) has broken up with her because she wouldn’t fool around. So she comes to visit her brother, Cliff Robertson, a swingin’ airplane pilot with a revolving door of stewardesses, in the big city in order to lose her virginity. Hypocritical brother is appalled. Fonda meets cute with Rod Taylor wearing gorgeous clothes. Misunderstandings ensue, until everyone winds up coupled and committed, restoring the moral order. The picture of social history fascinates me, even though I know it’s all Hollywoodized.