August is TCM’s “Summer Under the Stars” event, with every day dedicated to a new Hollywood name. Since they’ve been doing this for a while, they tend to branch out, which is welcome, seeing more than the expected Bogart, Davis, Grant, and so on.
Today is dedicated to Charles Coburn (1877-1961), best known for playing the wacky grandfather type with a twinkle in his eye. Be sure to check out these three movies he’s featured in tonight, starting at 6 PM Eastern, because they’re excellent comedies.
Heaven Can Wait (1943) — Directed by Ernst Lubitsch, this film has Don Ameche looking back on his life at the gates of Hell, where he reviews his womanizing and the effect it had on his long-suffering wife (Gene Tierney). Coburn plays the chorus-girl-chasing grandfather. It’s old-fashioned but charming, the story of a playboy in an era where those kinds of roles were more clearly defined. There’s an air of wistful melancholy about the whole thing, and a lesson to appreciate what you have while you have it.
The Lady Eve (1941) — Barbara Stanwyck, accompanied by her father (Coburn), cons Henry Fonda into falling in love with her … twice. Directed by Preston Sturges, this is a classic screwball comedy with outstanding performances.
The More the Merrier (1943) — My favorite of the three, this movie won Coburn the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. The underrated Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea fall in love during a housing shortage in wartime Washington, DC. (The same plot was used in Walk, Don’t Run, Cary Grant’s last movie, only it was set during the Tokyo Olympics.) Coburn’s “Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead!” motto is inspiring as he brings the reluctant couple together.