This Week on TCM
June 11, 2010

Some notes about what’s showing this week on Turner Classic Movies. For me, it’s a week for classic romances and some unusual Westerns. 

Eternal Romance

Madame Bovary cover
Madame Bovary
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Madame Bovary (Sunday, 6/13, 6 AM ET) — I’m not a big fan of star Jennifer Jones, but I figure I should learn more about the classic romance, since I enjoyed the Gemma Bovery graphic novel by Posy Simmonds so much. I think it will give me more context to the re-imagined later version. Plus, James Mason plays author Gustave Flaubert (what’s he doing in the movie of his book?), and I can always listen to his gorgeous voice. 

Anna Karenina cover
Anna Karenina
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Anna Karenina (Sunday, 6/13, 8 AM ET) — This one, on the other hand, it’s all about the actress for me. Greta Garbo stars as the doomed heroine. She’s so good at suffering. Also stars Basil Rathbone and Fredric March, who was surprisingly fun in the not-as-well-known-as-it-should-be Design for Living (directed by Ernst Lubitsch, about whom see below). 

Camille (Thursday, 6/17, 6 AM ET) — I adore Robert Taylor, Hollywood’s most beautiful man, and I’ve already praised Garbo, but I’ve passed by watching this before because I’m afraid it will be a bit too much for me. But that’s what TiVo’s for — I can grab it and wait until I’m in just the right mood. I think paring it up with the previous two will put me in a mood to over-indulge in such syrupy sentiment.

Westerns of All Kinds

Callaway Went Thataway (Monday, 6/14, 11:30 AM ET) — As part of Dorothy McGuire day, TCM airs this comedy Western. I’m checking it out because I think Fred MacMurray is underrated. He’s not the cowboy in this one. Howard Keel is, while MacMurray plays a marketing exec. Also includes Natalie Schafer (Mrs. Thurston Howell the Third) and comedy genius Stan Freberg. Note: When watching a MacMurray movie, if things get boring, just imagine Captain Marvel there instead. 

The Shootist cover
The Shootist
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Ride the High Country (Tuesday, 6/15, Midnight ET) — This is more like it, with Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea as older gunslingers. I don’t even care what they’re doing.  (Apparently, it involves transporting gold.) Note that this entire evening is “Aging Cowboys” night, so if you like this kind of movie, start your evening earlier. It’s also Mariette Hartley’s first film (I still remember her from those Polaroid commercials with James Garner) and Scott’s last. 

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Without Reservations
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The Shootist (Wednesday, 6/16, 2 AM ET) — Followed by this, the pinnacle of that mini-genre, made more poignant by it being John Wayne’s last movie, in an eerie parallel of the story of a dying gunfighter time has passed by. The cool thing about movies about a full life starring someone with such a long career is that they can use previous clips to indicate memories. (One of the many things I love about My Favorite Year is the way they do something similar with Peter O’Toole.) This film could also easily go into the previous category — I’m surprised I haven’t seen it before, but I don’t think I would have been ready for it. I’m looking forward to seeing what Lauren Bacall and James Stewart do in it, too.

Without Reservations (Thursday, 6/17, 2 PM ET) — A palate-cleanser, with a much younger John Wayne as the he-man Marine who impresses author Claudette Colbert. He is contemptuous of her books, of course, providing some minor conflict before they can fall in love.

Why Haven’t I Seen This Before?

Duck Soup cover
Duck Soup
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Duck Soup (Sunday, 6/13, 8 PM ET) — Finally! I’ve been waiting for this to come around again on TCM since it was recommended to me as the best Marx Brothers movie three years ago. Last time it came on, I had some kind of conflict. Normally, watching the Marxes puts me to sleep (it’s something about the odd pacing to today’s eyes), but I want to give them one more try. 

The Incredible Mr. Limpet cover
The Incredible Mr. Limpet
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The Merry Widow (Friday, 6/18, 6:15 AM ET) — I thought I was going to tie all this together by talking about the other Ernst Lubitsch film starring Colbert with Miriam Hopkins, but it turns out that that is The Smiling Lieutenant. That’s the one with the goofy musical number “Jazz Up Your Lingerie” (which they pronounce “lan-ger-ee”, to rhyme with melody), not this one, with a similar title. This one has Jeanette MacDonald, thankfully without singing partner Nelson Eddy, because I can’t stand their operatic duets. (I much prefer Wayne and Wanda, because their numbers are always short.) But this is Lubitsch, and that alone makes it worthwhile.

The Incredible Mr. Limpet (Friday, 6/18, 10 PM ET) — Don Knotts becomes a fish in the last (part-)cartoon film that came from the Warner Brothers animation studio. I’m not sure it’s worth watching just for that, but it sounds goofy enough it might be fun.

It’s been a long time since I did one of these columns, but I only want to put them up when I have something to say. I hope you, dear readers, are still interested.

10 Responses  
Johnny Bacardi writes:  

Duck Soup is my favorite Marx movie, too- hope you like it half as much as I do!

Jim Kosmicki writes:  

Absolutely I am still interested. It’s always good to see what someone else recommends and to see their perspective. You almost always have caught something that I missed in my own perusal of the TCM schedule.

and Duck Soup is the best of the Marx Brothers movies by far – it’s also the movie that “unlocked” the appeal of the Marxes for me – after seeing this one, the others began to work better for me. I hope it does the same for you.

Johanna writes:  

Thanks, Jim. Always good to know someone’s reading. I’m really looking forward to Duck Soup now!

Barney writes:  

Duck Soup may be their best film. It’s certainly my favorite. The Incredible Mr. Limpet I remember as being a lot of fun when I was a little kid. I’m not sure how I’d view it now.

MacMurray is underrated. I’m watching The Apartment right now and I can’t imagine a better villain.

Ali T. Kokmen writes:  

Another recommendation for Duck Soup here. Glad to hear you’re going to give it a chance.

Jim’s point about it “unlocking” the appeal of the Marx Brothers’ appeal is a good way of putting it. Duck Soup nigh perfects their anarchic comedy style. It’s certainly the best Marx Brothers movie to that point, certainly the best of their Paramount pictures.

That said, if you find that you’re still not getting the Marx Brothers appeal afterward, I’d suggest not giving up before you give one (or both!) of the next two a shot–A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races. With those movies, the Brothers moved to MGM who gave the movies a bit more in production values. Also, with those films, they tempered the brothers insane antics by having them help out a likable protagonist. In some ways, it’s easier to take the Marx Brothers’ craziness when it’s directed not at a villain who’s against them but rather against someone else we like.

But I digress… Hail, hail Freedonia!

Joan writes:  

Camille is one of my favorite “curl up with Ben and Jerry’s and have a good cry” movies. That and Waterloo Bridge. And Ride the High Country is excellent (albeit violent). It helps that I’m a huge fan of Randolph Scott and especially Joel McCrea, but it’s also just a good, solid western, with some interesting meta bits.

Johanna writes:  

I need to give that genre more of a try — I have an intellectual appreciation for the themes of the Western, but little patience for them in actuality. (Something about valorizing the male loner rubs me the wrong way.)

And thanks, Ali, always a pleasure to see your analysis of anything!

Bill D. writes:  

Fred MacMurray and Stan Freberg in the same movie? That’s a must-see. Thanks for the heads-up!

And I echo the Duck Soup love. Not only does it contain some of the Brothers’ best bits, but it also lacks that boring romantic B-plot that always drags their earlier work down.

Johnny Bacardi writes:  

I meant to add in my comment from the other day that I saw Mr. Limpet in its original theatrical release, in the local drive-in. I was four. Get off my lawn, you kids.

Johanna writes:  

I saw Saturday Night Fever, when they recut it to create a PG version (weird that they did that), at the drive-in on a double bill with Grease. We are fogies. Bless us for keeping the memories alive. :)


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