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This Week on TCM: Appreciating History
April 2, 2011

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 Actors: Rare Films Of Mary Pickford cover
The Actors:
Rare Films of Mary Pickford
Buy this DVD

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.

4 Responses  
Grant writes:  

Boy, I could not agree more with your opening comment. I can remember when you were lucky to catch an old movie on the weekends. Or after school on the “3:30 Movie”. They were like gold!

Not a fan of Theodora Goes Wild, but I love Americanization of Emily. One of Garners best films.

As long as we’re talking film history, I’d mention “Unseen Cinema” tomorrow night at 10pmE. TCM’s site can explain it better than I can…

http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/383592%7C383603/Unseen-Cinema-Early-American-Avant-Garde-Film.html

I’d also mention, for those fans of “Jungle Girl” history, Monday they’re showing “Green Mansions”. Based on the Hudson novel about Rima the Jungle Girl. Rima, as some might know, had her own comic at DC in the 70s and was in a few Super Friends toons. She was recently seen in DC’s soon to be defunct “First Wave” series. Rima is the direct inspiration for Sheena, Rula, Lorna, Jann, Nyoka, etc. And even predates Tarzan and Jane by about 4 years.

I haven’t seen Green Mansions before, so it may be horrible for all I know. But Audrey Hepburn plays Rima, so I have to give it a chance. ;)

 
Johanna writes:  

I’m still astounded — I can see a movie that is 95 years old. I can see into the past any time I want. That’s just amazing! OK, calming down now. My dad introduced me to A of E, which is one of the few films we share affection for, so that’s another, special level of appreciation for me.

I noted the Unseen Cinema showing, but the phrase “Avant Garde” scares me away. I’m something of a low-brow when it comes to movies, because I value entertainment over artistic achievement.

You are really pushing the Rima movie, aren’t you?! There’s some reference to it, or a similar character, in one of the Ellery Queen novels, if I’m remembering correctly, where I first learned about it. That was plenty for me.

 
Grant writes:  

“You are really pushing the Rima movie, aren’t you?!”

lol! I just don’t want to be the only dummy that watches it! Plus, a little comic book relevance, a little pulp relevance, a little classic movie relevance, Tony Perkins singing amidst jungle adventure…what’s not to like? ;)

 
Grant writes:  

The window to the past that movies give is invaluable. I was watching a silent movie about WW1 that was made just a few years after WW1! That is pretty cool.

 
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