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This Week on TCM: Short Thoughts
March 25, 2011

No clever theme this time, just a quick set of thoughts around some of the movies TCM is showing in the upcoming week.

Animal Crackers cover
Animal Crackers
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Animal Crackers (Saturday, 3/26, 8:30 AM ET) — I’m trying the Marx Brothers again. I know it’s no Duck Soup, but the description of a “madcap house party” sounds fun. Speaking of which, I love the way that TCM describes every Marx Brothers movie starting with “Three zanies (do whatever)”.

Love in the Afternoon cover
Love in the Afternoon
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Love in the Afternoon (Monday, 3/28, 10:00 AM ET) — I never would have imagined that a movie with Audrey Hepburn, Maurice Chevalier, and Gary Cooper would be so boring I couldn’t make it 20 minutes in, but this is that movie. Also one of those “he’s HOW old and we’re supposed to believe their romance?”

Apparently, this movie was director Billy Wilder’s homage to Ernst Lubitsch. Instead, why not try the real thing?

Trouble in Paradise cover
Trouble in Paradise
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Wednesday night (Thursday morning), starting at 1 AM, TCM airs three Lubitsch films, beginning with Trouble in Paradise, a caper romance starring Kay Francis. Then comes The Love Parade, the first real movie musical and Jeanette MacDonald’s debut, and To Be or Not to Be, the Nazi comedy. I’ve greatly enjoyed watching just about every movie he’s done, so I recommend them all.

Don’t forget about Jean Harlow month — they saved some of her best for Tuesday night, March 29, starting at 8 with Dinner at Eight.

The Last of Sheila (Thursday, 3/31, 10:30 PM ET) — To round out the month, this twisty, all-star mystery about a manipulative Hollywood producer who loves to play games and those possibly involved in his wife’s death. The cast is a who’s who of 70s stars — James Coburn, Richard Benjamin, James Mason, Dyan Cannon, Joan Hackett, Raquel Welch — and the puzzles intriguing. Co-written by Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim, who turned their own murder party games into this plot.

16 Responses  
Johnny Bacardi writes:  

Animal Crackers is no Duck Soup or Night at the Opera, but it’s full of wacky stuff just the same, including Groucho’s famous “Hooray for Captain Spaulding”, and the “I shot an elephant in my pajamas…” line. That movie was withheld from release for a long time; they rereleased it to theatres in 1974 (I think it was) and I drove to Louisville with a friend to see it, as I had just discovered the Bros.’ films the year before…

 
Barney writes:  

Drat! I forgot about Jean Harlow month. Now I have to wait until May for Red Dust to play again. (Clark Gable and Jean Harlow in Vietnam.)

 
caleb writes:  

Wait, what? You don’t like…the Marx Brothers…you’ve never seen Animal Crackers? For real? Wow.

Well, Duck Soup is their masterpiece, so if you don’t like that one, there’s probably not much hope. Animal Crackers and The Coconuts are probably their next two best films (Their second and first, respectively, if I remember right, although I may have mixed ‘em up). Some folks prefer the big, glitzier Night at The Opera and Day at the Races better, but I like the first two best.

 
Sarah writes:  

“Trouble in Paradise, a caper romance…”

I object to this description. Surely TiP is *the* caper romance.

 
Grant writes:  

Here’s some more TCM programming worth mentioning;

Saturday night at 8pm they’re showing a 5 film marathon of Crawford films, including Mildred Pierce and Daisy Kenyon. This is the era of Crawford just before she gets scary.

Sunday at 2pm is an entertaining Jimmy Stewart film “No Highway In The Sky”. Very entertaining movie that teams Stewart with Destry co star Marlene Dietrich.

And for mystery lovers, Tuesday at 10:30 am they’re showing most of the “Crime Doctor” series. Based on a radio show about an amnesiac who becomes a doctor in order to discover who he is. They’re showing 7 of 10 films in the series. Fun stuff.

 
Grant writes:  

“Surely TiP is *the* caper romance.”

No, that would be the 1930 version of “Raffles” with Ronald Colman and Kay Francis. Marshall is good, but come on…Ronald Colman is The Man!

 
Johanna writes:  

Caleb, I had a weird experience the first time I tried to watch the Marx Brothers — I feel asleep after about 20 minutes. Next night, tried again (picking up where I left off), same thing happened. They work best for me in small doses. I did like Duck Soup, which is why I’m trying another.

Sarah, I just wish it had a slightly stronger cast. I mean, I love it the way it is, but I think it might be better known if more name value people were attached.

Grant, thanks for explaining the Crime Doctor — I noticed that series, but I wasn’t familiar with the background.

 
Mark J. Hansen writes:  

Personally, as a Marx Bros superfan, Animal Crackers is my very favorite of their movies (though I will concede Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera are better in many respects.) It is, fair warning a pretty early film, and one of their longer movies, so keep that in mind.

 
Johanna writes:  

Oh, now I’m looking forward to seeing it even more. Thanks.

 
Joan writes:  

I’ve often felt that Lubitsch, more than any director I’ve seen, tends toward love triangles that would more naturally resolve themselves as ménages à trois than as a couple plus a loser. Trouble in Paradise, The Smiling Lieutenant, Design for Living… sometimes the only thing I can see keeping everyone from living happily ever after together is societal expectation (and later, the Hayes Code), because it’s sure not Lubitsch. Or Lubitsch and Coward, in Design for Living. Actually, I’m not convinced that one doesn’t end in a happy threesome.

He must have driven the censors nuts! *g*

 
Sarah writes:  

Grant, having read the books, I just don’t quite believe in Raffles’s heterosexuality anymore…

 
Johanna writes:  

Joan, I think you’re right — he certainly argues for more complex relationships and puts the lie to the idea that one person can be everything for another. We’re certainly left with the image of the three of them running off together in Design for Living.

Sarah, having watched the movie, I don’t either. Wasn’t his best friend called Bunny, of all things? I know times were different then, but it’s just impossible to hear that with a straight face these days.

 
Grant writes:  

Ha! forgot about “Bunny”. Okay sarah, you got me on Raffles. Too bad Random Harvest doesn’t have a crime caper in it. That would win hands down. ;)

 
Sarah writes:  

Yes, his best friend/co-conspirator was named Bunny, all right! I’m told, though I haven’t researched it myself, that the historical model for Raffles had rather a wink-wink-nudge-nudge reputation.

 
Rob S. writes:  

I’ve met a guy named Bunny — decades ago. He was a short-order cook at a local independent burger joint. (I think he was also co-owner, so it’s possible he’s still there.) Even as a ten-year old, I was like, “Your name is WHAT, now?”

I like Animal Crackers a lot, but A Night at the Opera is probably my absolute fave…

 
Grant writes:  

Just wanted to mention, next week on TCM they’re showing “Green Mansions”. Based on the Hudson novel that introduced “Rima the Jungle Girl” who’s been seen in comic books and cartoons over the years. Audrey Hepburn plays Rima. This is the first time I’ve seen it shown on TCM.

 

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