Saturday, October 3, 2015

Moguls and Movie Stars redux

For those who missed it back in 2010, TCM is going to be rerunning the Moguls and Movie Stars series this month. There are going to be two episodes each Sunday at 10:00 AM, starting tomorrow and running through the 25th, which only has one episode since the miniseries only had seven episodes. My impression back when it premiered was that for anybody who didn't know much about the movies, it was a good introduction, but on a channel like TCM where a lot of the viewers are extremely avid movie buffs, it's mostly the sort of thing we know already. I'd say this is especially the case with the folks over at the TCM discussion boards.

The first episode in the series looks at the dawn of film, even more so than the recent first night of the Trailblazing Women spotlight did on Thursday night. If you didn't get to record any of the Alice Guy shorts that ran on Thursday night, here's Guy's La Fée aux Choux, or The Cabbage Fairy, all one minute of it:

Friday, October 2, 2015

Oh, that's right, it's October again

So I was looking at the TCM schedule to see if there was anything interesting worth blogging about. There don't seem to be too many shorts on the schedule right now, which was the first thing that struck my eye. The second was tonight's prime time lineup: Haunted Houses.

And that's when it hit me. Now that we're in October, we've got Halloween rapidly approaching, which means that all sorts of channels are going to be bringing out their horror-themed stuff. Why should TCM be any different? Indeed, it looks as though every Friday in prime time this October is going to be given over to nights chock full of horror films. In addition to this first Friday's theme of haunted houses, the other themes as best I can tell:

October 9: Disfigurement
October 16: Children playing a large part
October 23: Literary adaptations
October 30: Val Lewton

Also, much of the morning and afternoon schedule will be horror films on the 29th and 30th, with all day Halloween also being given over to horror.

A few of the Friday night selections might not be traditional horror, especially The Hunchback of Notre Dame on the 23d, but there's still some moderately frightening visuals or characters in these films, I think.

I just hope you all like horror films or female directors since those are taking up so much of this month's TCM schedule.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

October Spotlight: Female directors

It looks as though TCM may be getting away from the standard "Friday Night Spotlight", instead having a spotlight each month, but not necessarily having it on Fridays. September's spotlight was on Tuesdays, in part because the theme was about five directors who served in World War II and there weren't five Fridays in September.

October, however, has a bigger spotlight. The theme is women directors, and the spotlight is big enough that it's going to be on two nights each week in October, all five Thursdays and then the four Tuesdays. As I understand it, there's also going to be a second installment next year.

This first night of the spotlight looks at some of the early female directors, of whom the best known would probably be Alice Guy-Blaché. The short Falling Leaves, which I mentioned in that post from two years ago, is on the night's schedule, airing sometime betewen 8:00 PM and 9:30. This portion of the lineup is another one where TCM has schedule a block of shorts, which means the schedule isn't always clear. The TCM monthly schedule implies it'll be the last film of the block; my box guide suggests it'll be in the middle. Record the whole block.

Perhaps more interesting personally for me will be The Love Light at midnight. This one was directed by Frances Marion. Marion is probably much better known as a screenwriter, coming up with some great screenplays at the end of the silent era and the beginning of the sound era. That movie will be followed at 1:45 AM by a documentary on Marion.

John Guillermin, 1925-2015

British director John Guillermin had died at the age of 89. Apparently he died on Monday, but the obituaries I've seen were only published on Wednesday.

Guillermin is probably best known for his big-budget movies of the 1970s, of which the most notable is The Towering Inferno. It's one of those fun all-star disaster movies that were popular that decade, not that you couldn't figure it out from the title. Another all-star movie was his adaptation of Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile. In between those was the 1970s remake of King Kong, a movie that I think is forgotten in part because the original is the best, and because the original was remade again several years ago.

One Guillermin film that I've blogged about is the underrated Guns at Batasi.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

TCM Guest Programmer September 2015: Diahann Carroll

Once again, it's time tonight for this month's TCM Guest Programmer. (Obviously, there are no further nights on which they could have schduled the September Guest Programmer.) This month, actress Diahann Carroll has selected four of her favorite films and will be presenting them with TCM host Robert Osborne.

Every now and then, a Guest Programmer will select one of his or her own films; I seem to recall Shirley Jones doing that with Elmer Gantry. (Thelma Schoonmaker selected three films directed by her husband, Michael Powell.) Carroll is another one who is starting off with a movie in which she stars. That movie is Claudine at 8:00, in which she plays a single mother in mid-1970s New York who tries to raise her six children while dealing with the pitfalls of welfare and while falling in love with garbage collector James Earl Jones.

That will be followed at 10:00 PM by Now, Voyager, which I suppose shares something in common with Claudine in that both films involve women trying to navigate uncertain love lives. But I don't know if Diahann Carroll could have a fun breakdown the way Davis does in Now, Voyager.

At 12:15 AM you can catch Gilda, in which Glenn Ford is a gmabler in Buenos Aires who gets hired by casino owner George Macready and finds out his new boss is in love with his old girlfriend (Rita Hayworth). Oh, and the boss has some shady business dealings going on as well.

Finally at 2:15 AM is Glory, about an all-Black unit of soldiers in the US Civil War.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A heads-up on Something Always Happens

Tommorow, September 30, is the birth anniversary of British-born director Michael Powell, who was born on that day in 1905. TCM is running a morning and afternoon of his movies, and one of the highlights for me would be another airing of Something Always Happens, which is on at 7:00 AM.

The reason I consider it a highlight is that it was never intended to be seen in America. As I mentioned in the post linked above, the movie was made at the Teddington Studio, which was Warner Bros.' British arm. Back then, the UK had a protectionist system wherein a certain percentage of movies shown in British cinemas had to be British films. The Hollywood studios dealt with this by setting up shops in the UK to make cheap B movies which they could pair with the prestige movies from Hollywood. TCM got the rights to half a dozen of them several years ago, and the quality ranges about as much as wth Hollywood's B movies. Some of it wasn't all that good; some of it was highly entertaining even if not on a par with the prestige movies. For me Something Always Happens is in that latter category. If you haven't seen Something Always Happens before, I can definitely recommend it. There's a synopsis somewhere in between the length of a brief post like this and a full-length post at the link above.

George Stevens' World War II footage

Tonight is the final night of the Five Came Back spotlight on TCM, looking at five directors who served in World War II. This last installment looks at George Stevens, who after the war would make such classics as A Place in the Sun and Shane.

During World War II, Stevens had access to a home movie camera and a bunch of color film stock, which he used to good effect to film documentary footage of the war in color, with a lot of it being mostly candid. The footage went unknown for decades until after the director's death. When his son George Jr. cleaned out the attic, he found all that footage and made a documentary about his father. (Actually, there are two documentaries: a relatively standard one which does include some of the war footage, and one looking specifically at the war footage.)

TCM is, as far as I know, not showing any of the color footage, since it was more or less Stevens' "personal" films and not the stuff he was doing as part of the war effort. (They have shown George Jr.'s "standard" documentary in the past.) So here is some of that footage:

Monday, September 28, 2015

Consolation Marriage

An interesting and little-known pre-Code is coming up on TCM tomorrow morning at 6:15 AM: Consolation Marriage. It deserves a viewing and a blog post.

Irene Dunne plays Mary, a working girl trying to make her way through the late 1920s with her boyfriend Aubrey (Lester Vail). Unfortunately, he decides that he would be happier marrying into wealth. So he runs off with a rich girl and leaves poor Mary alone. While Mary is licking her wounds, she runs into Steve (Pat O'Brien). He's a newspaperman who has just suffered the same fate as his girl Elaine (a young Myrna Loy) has left him for a better-off partner. There's an obvious solution for these two jilted lovers that you should be able to figure out.

Ah, but there's a twist. Mary and Steve do decide to get married, but they have an agreement that it's going to be a more or less "open" marriage. Not so much in the sense that they're going to be sleeping around, but more that if either of them decides they don't want to be in the marriage any longer, they can just up and end the marriage. Seems like a pretty daring idea for the early 1930s, even taking into account that Hollywood movies probably had more divorces in them than America as a whole. That having been said, the marriage seems to be a reasonably happy one, and one that obviously includes sex, since Mary ultimately has a baby. (I suppose that in true Hollywood tradition, they could have had sex exactly once and that's what produced the baby.)

For a movie like this to be interesting, however, there's going to have to be some dramatic conflict. In Penny Serenade, that conflict involved killing off the poor little child. Consolation Marriage isn't going to be so mean here. And, in fact, it comes up with a more interesting dilemma. Aubrey and Elaine both return to announce that they're not happy with their marriages, and both of them would be happy running off with their old lovers. A fun solution would be for Aubrey and Elaine to marry each other and then live together with Mary and Steve, but the cinema of the early 1930s couldn't be that daring. Instead, what we get is a dramatic conflict over whether Mary, Steve, or both of them will go back to their old lovers. And who's going to take custody of the baby?

Consolation Marriage is an interesting idea, even if the execution isn't always perfect. But it's that idea that makes it so well worth watching, at least once. Most of us who are into old movies know well about Joe Breen's enforcement of the Production Code in 1934 and how, before then, movies could do things that were more daring. But even then, a lot of what was done is pretty tame compared to what you can show on screen today. The sort of marriage practiced by Mary and Steve, however, is different, and that's one of the things that makes the movie worth a watch.

I don't think Consolation Marriage has been released to DVD here in North America, so you'll have to catch the rare TCM showing.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Ooh, I've joined a blogathon!

Today was another day where I couldn't really think of what to blog about. I looked at the upcoming TCM schedule, and saw that Dial M For Murder is on it, tomorrow at noon. It's a movie that certainly deserves a full-length blog post, and, as it turns out, I already did that four and a half years ago.

So, when I was looking down the blogroll, I noticed that one of the blogs has an announcement for a blogathon: the What a Character! blogathon for 2015. Ooh, I enjoy character actors, I thought, so this looks interesting.

The blogathon will be coming up in November, so I'm going to have to remember to actually do a post on the character actor of my choice, although I'll probably just do one well ahead of time and schedule it to show up on the day in question.

It also gave me an idea for a blogathon I might like to start, although my blog tends to be low enough traffic that I'd have to really go out and almost spam other blogs' comment threads to publicize it. :-(

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A good place for screencaps

George Raft (the man in the gray hat) in a scene from Some Like It Hot (1959)

Today marks the birth anniversary of actor George Raft. I was going to do a birthday post on him, except it already turns out that I did one four years ago. In looking for a good picture of Raft to use on what was going to be today's post, I decided I was going to look for something with Raft from Some Like It Hot, which is how I came across the above picture. It's from a blog called Pyxurz, which basically has a whole bunch of screencaps on various movies, mentioning who is in each screencap, but other than that mostly uncommented upon.

I don't feel bad about hotlinking, since it's Google that's hosting the images, and since the person who put them up doesn't have the copyright on them, anyway.