A Guide to the Rare and Unusual on TCM
By Ed Garea
STAR OF THE MONTH: SUSAN HAYWARD
September 17: We begin with two epics: Demetrius and the Gladiators (Fox, 1954) at 8:00 pm, with Victor Mature, Michael Rennie and Jay Robinson (look for an early Anne Bancroft as Paula), and one of the all-time stinkers, The Conquerer (RKO, 1956) following at 10:00 pm. (For more, see below). At midnight, it’s Hayward as Lillian Roth in the biopic I’ll Cry Tomorrow (MGM, 1955), followed by I Want To Live! (UA, 1958), with Hayward as gassed criminal Barbara Graham. The film, based on fact, does a pretty good job of making a case of innocence for Graham, but read John Gilmore’s L.A. Despair (available at Amazon) for the real story on the Ice Blonde.
September 24: The Marriage-Go-Round (Fox, 1960) starts things off at 8:00 pm, followed by Fanny Hurst’s classic tearjerker, Back Street (Universal, 1961), at 9:45. At 11:45, it’s Valley of the Dolls (Fox, 1967), another all-time stinker, and at 2:00 am, it’s Stolen Hours (UA, 1963).
September 22: William Wyler has the spotlight beginning at 8:00 pm with Mrs. Miniver (MGM, 1942). He also helms the documentaries Memphis Belle: The Story of a Flying Fortress (1943) at 10:30 pm and Thunderbolt (1947) at 11:30 pm before bowing out with The Best Years of Our Lives (RKO, 1946). Robert Taylor closes out the night at 3:30 am narrating The Fighting Lady (1944), the story of the U.S.S. Yorktown.
September 29: For the final installment, director George Stevens is featured. We begin, as usual, at 8:00 pm with his wonderful comedy about the wartime housing shortage in Washington D.C., The More the Merrier (Columbia, 1943) with Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, and Charles Coburn, who steals the film. His short on those about to face justice at Nuremburg, That Justice Be Done (1945), airs at 10:00 pm, followed by his documentary, The Nazi Plan (1945) at 10:15 pm. Rounding things out at 12:30 am is his moving and touching The Diary of Anne Frank (Fox, 1959).
September 22: The Snafu cartoons for the night are The Home Front (10:25 pm), Fighting Tools (11:25 pm), and Going Home (12:25 am).
September 29: There’s only one Snafu cartoon scheduled tonight, but it’s the hilarious Censored (1944) at 9:55 pm.
September 25: An afternoon of Robert Bresson films begins at 11:45 with the classic Diary of a Country Priest (1951). Following in order are A Man Escaped (1956) at 1:45 pm., Pickpocket (1959), a phenomenological examination of the art of lifting wallets, at 3:30 pm., Le Proces de Jeanne d’Arc (1962) at 5:00 pm, and closing out the festival, the moving Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) at 6:15. There are few directors with Bresson’s talent for introspection and even less who know how to use that talent to its utmost. If you’ve never seen a Bresson film before, you’re in for a real treat. There’s not much in the way of overt action, but you’ll be thinking about these films long after you’ve seen them.
In the evening, it’s a festival of James Dean appearances in television dramas. Before his big break in movies Dean worked the small medium. These shows are almost never seen outside maybe of public television and are worth catching, especially for the James Dean fan.
September 27: A double feature of the great Lon Chaney in two of his best silent’s beginning with He Who Gets Slapped (MGM, 1924), which gave Norma Shearer her big break, at 12:15 am, and Laugh, Clown, Laugh with Loretta Young (MGM, 1928) at 1:30 am. As with all Chaney films, both are a must.
September 16: An entire evening of films directed by Jean-Luc Godard begins at 8:00 pm with the incomparable Breathless (1960). At 9:45, it’s his acclaimed short, Charlotte et son Jules (Charlotte and Jules) from 1960. Pierrot le Fou (1965), a type of Bonnie and Clyde escapade with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina, airs at 10:15, followed by Masculin-Feminin (1966) at 12:15 am. At 2:15 am, it’s Godard’s take on the Lemmy Caution mysteries, Alphaville, from 1965 and starring Eddie Constantine and Anna Karina. Wrapping up the night, Karina, Belmondo, and Jean-Claude Brialy in the 1961 romance (of sorts), A Woman is a Woman. Keep in mind that these films were made during the early period of Godard’s career, when his movies still made a modicum of sense, before he decided to deconstruct the meaning of film narrative, and so should prove somewhat entertaining.
ABBOTT AND COSTELLO
September 18: It’s an entire night of Abbott and Costello, including two TCM premieres – Hold That Ghost at 8:00 pm, and In the Navy at 11:15. The catch of the night is Hold That Ghost (Universal, 1941), a hilarious comedy that sees the hapless duo inherit a haunted house and have to fight off gangsters looking for hidden loot. It’s followed at 9:45 by Buck Privates (Universal, 1941), the first and funniest of their service comedies. At 1:00 am, it’s their version of Rio Rita (MGM, 1942), with Lost in a Harem (MGM, 1944) airing at 2:45 am and Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd (WB, 1952) rounding out the evening at 4:30 am.
HOPALONG CASSIDY (WELL, SORT OF)
Before he hit fame and fortune in 1935 by taking the role of Hopalong Cassidy and making it into a fixture of pop culture, William Boyd labored as a stuntman until given a chance to star in a few low-budget oaters, in which he gave such a compelling performance that the role of Cassidy was offered to him a few years later. Boyd, though, was no newcomer to film. He started as an extra for Cecil DeMille in Why Change Your Wife? (1920). DeMille saw something in him and in 1926 he was the romantic lead in the director’s The Volga Boatman. He became a matinee idol, earning in excess of $100,000 a year. But by the end of silent movies Boyd was without a contract and hopes of employment. By mistake his picture was run in a newspaper story about the arrest of another actor with a similar name (William “Stage” Boyd) on gambling, liquor and morals charges. Rather than quit and run, Boyd stick around, doing extra work, stunt work, whatever it took to earn a few bucks. David O. Selznick looked beyond the headlines and put Boyd back into films as a star in B-Westerns, working as “Bill Boyd” to eliminate confusion. His break came when he took the role of Hopalong Cassidy. He changed the original pulp-fiction character to its opposite: Hoppy didn’t use tobacco, drink, or swear. He rarely kissed the girl and the bad guy always drew first. The film and the 65 others that followed made Saturday matinees a paying prospect for theaters due to the huge youth audience he drew.
On September 21 TCM is airing two of his pre-Hoppy Westerns. Up first at 11:30 am is Lucky Devils (RKO, 1933) starring Boyd and William Gargan as two stuntmen competing for the same woman (Dorothy Wilson). Look for Creighton Chaney (later Lon Chaney, Jr.) in a small role as “Frankie.” Following at 12:45 pm, Boyd stars in Men of America (RKO, 1932) as a rancher framed when gangsters on the lam murder a farmer. To avoid being lynched, Boyd must round up the baddies.
September 19: In the morning, start off with the latest chapter of the Batman and Robin serial at 10:00 am. Then settle in for Bulldog Drummond Comes Back (Paramount, 1937) with John Howard as Drummond and John Barrymore as Colonel Nielson at 10:30. Then, in the wee hours of the morning, it’s a blaxploitation double feature beginning at 2:00 am with Max Julien in The Mack (Cinerama Releasing, 1973), and at 4:00 am, it’s Three the Hard Way (Allied Artists, 1974).
September 20: It’s a B-detective double feature double-header beginning at 8 pm. First up, from Monogram, Sidney Toler as Charlie Chan in 1946’s Dark Alibi, followed by Dangerous Money (also 1946) at 9:15. Stay tuned for the Falcon, George Sanders, in The Gay Falcon (RKO, 1941), the first in the series, at 10:30, and A Date With The Falcon (RKO, 1941) at 11:45 pm.
September 21: At 1:45 pm, it’s that great old dark house mystery, The Phantom of Crestwood (RKO, 1932), starring Ricardo Cortez and Karen Morley. What can you say about a movie where the leading lady gets knocked off early? It’s a lot of fun and should hold your interest.
September 22: It’s a morning and afternoon of robots beginning at 9:00 am when Patricia Neal must utter the magic words to stop the robot Gort from incinerating the Earth in The Day the Earth Stood Still (Fox, 1951). At 10:45 am, it’s Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet (MGM, 1956). Robby returns at 12:30 pm in The Invisible Boy (MGM, 1957). Following at 2:15 is one of the great terrible Mexican horrors, The Robot Vs. The Aztec Mummy (Cinematogrfica Caldern, 1958), a picture that can only be described as “different.” At 3:30 pm, it’s Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey (MGM, 1968), and at 6:15 pm the day ends with Yul Brenner, Richard Benjamin and James Brolin in Westworld (MGM, 1973).
September 23: The night belongs to Kerwin Matthews starting at 8:00 pm with the classic Ray Harryhausen animated The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (Columbia, 1958), The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (Columbia, 1960), also animated by Harryhausen, at 9:45, Jack the Giant Killer (UA, 1962) at 11:30, The Pirates of Blood River (Hammer/Columbia) with Christopher Lee at 1:15 am, and The Warrior Empress (Columbia, 1961) with Tina Louise at 3:00 am. Finally, at 4:45, it’s Matthews with Lee J. Cobb in the drama, The Garment Jungle (Columbia, 1957).
September 26: After a morning of the Batman and Robin serial at 10:00 am, stay tuned for Bulldog Drummond’s Revenge (Paramount, 1937) at 10:30. Then you’ll have to wait for late night and the Japanese gonzo haunted house feature, Hausu (Toho, 1977) at 3:00 am, followed by the last appearance of the gorgeous Faith Domergue in the disappointing The House of the Seven Corpses (International Amusements Corp., 1974) at 4:30 am.