Looking at what TCM is showing in the upcoming week, sometimes I’m just astounded at what we can so easily see from movie history. We really are spoiled in how much film is available to us to view.
The Poor Little Rich Girl (Friday, 4/8, 6:00 AM ET) —
Exhibit A. This 1917 (!) silent film features one of the first huge movie stars, Mary Pickford, as a neglected child whose sickness shows her parents what they should really value. Moral lesson aside, when I saw this, I was surprised at the elegance of some of the visual effects used. Mary has some interesting visions, it seems, while suffering in bed. Additionally, the then-24-year-old was playing an 11-year-old, but they make it work through some clever perspective shots, costuming, and her acting. If you want a sample, you can watch it online at the Internet Archive.
Fragments (Sunday, 4/3, 8:00 PM ET) — In contrast, here’s a reminder of what we’ve lost. This collection of scenes and segments from silents and early sound movies was shown at the 2010 TCM Classic Film Festival. TCM estimates that up to 80% of movies made before 1930 have disappeared. This showing includes some classic scenes and snippets of what restorers have been able to save. I hope it’s put into context, with narration explaining why the pieces assembled here are significant.
Tuesday brings some lighter fare with a number of lesser-known Melvyn Douglas films airing from 6 AM to 8 PM. (I’m a fan, and I can’t really tell you why, except to point to Ninotchka.) The standout among the group is Theodora Goes Wild, at 12:45. Co-starring Irene Dunne, it’s a goofy romantic comedy with some snipes at small-town hypocrisy, but the other films range from early horror (The Vampire Bat) to crime dramas (Tell No Tales).
Thursday focuses on another great leading man, James Garner. Be sure to check out The Americanization of Emily (Thursday, 4/7, 10:15 AM ET) for a slashing indictment of military heroism, co-starring Julie Andrews, James Coburn, and yes, (a much older) Melvyn Douglas. Written by Paddy Chayefsky, it’s got the righteous anger and wonderful wordplay you expect from him.