A Guide to the Rare and Unusual on TCM
By Ed Garea
SUMMER UNDER THE STARS
It’s August, which means a month of “Summer Under the Stars,” in which each day is devoted to the films of a particular actor or actress. In the past, TCM has made this somewhat interesting by including people we don’t normally see, i.e., those not from Hollywood, the international stars. But this year the only international star we get is Brigitte Bardot, and if want to stretch it, Ralph Richardson and Charles Boyer (and that’s really stretching it, as both made quite a few films in America).
Instead, we get yet another day of Fred Astaire, Katharine Hepburn and Gary Cooper, and the films being shown are those we’ve already seen a hundred times. Once again, given the opportunity to do something out of the ordinary, TCM instead sticks to the tried and true, and in the end, lets its fans down. As I said in this column last year, I would like to see a day devoted to the films of the following: Marcello Mastroianni, Alec Guinness, Setsuko Hara, Monica Vitti. Paul Wegener, George Arliss, Michel Simon, Chishu Ryu, Peter Lorre, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Simone Signoret, Charles Hawtrey, Anouk Aimee, Ugo Tognazzi, Emil Jannings, Richard Attenborough, Vittorio Gassman, Googie Withers, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Anna Karina, Alberto Sordi, Diana Dors, Jean-Claude Brialy, Gerard Depardieu, Giulietta Masina, Isabelle Huppert, Jean Marais, Anna Magnani, and Albert Remy. And that’s just off the top of my head.
OUT OF THE ORDINARY
August 1: On a day devoted to Edward G. Robinson, try The Red House (10:00 pm), an above-average melodrama from 1947 crime drama boasting an excellent cast.
August 2: One of the best, if not the best, films Lucille Ball made is The Big Street (RKO, 1942) with Lucile as a selfish showgirl with whom waiter Henry Fonda is head-over-heels in love. It airs at 1:00 pm. Look for Barton MacLane and the always excellent Eugene Pallette is supporting roles.
August 6: It’s Montgomery Clift’s day, and the pick of the day is Gore Vidal’s adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ play, Suddenly, Last Summer (Columbia, 1959), with Elizabeth Taylor at the height of her beauty as a most unusual damsel-in-distress, and Katharine Hepburn as her tormentor who wants to keep her silent about a family secret.
August 7: Check out Jean Harlow’s last film Saratoga (MGM, 1937) at 8 am and the wonderful Libeled Lady (MGM, 1936) at 6 pm.
August 12: Janet Gaynor has the stage and the film to see is the original A Star is Born (UA, 1937) with Frederic March and Adolphe Menjou, exquisitely directed by William A. Wellman, at 2 pm.
August 13: At 6 pm, Ralph Richardson stars with John Mills and Michael Caine in the hilarious The Wrong Box (Columbia, 1966). It also features Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and Peter Sellers, who steals the film.
August 15: We would be truly remiss if we didn’t recommend How Green Was My Valley (20th Century Fox, 1941), John Ford’s classic story of life in a Welsh coal mining family, starring Walter Pigeon, Maureen O’Hara, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp, and the day’s honoree, Roddy McDowell.
August 1: Three good Pre-Code films lead off the day’s tribute to Edward G. Robinson, beginning at 6 am with Tiger Shark from 1932. It’s followed at 7:30 by the venerable Little Caesar (1930), and at 9:00 am by the compelling Five Star Final (1931).
August 3: In a day devoted to Bing Crosby, check out Der Bingle in Going Hollywood with star Marion Davies (MGM, 1933), airing at 6 am.
August 4: A gold mine of Pre-Code favorites in a day dedicated to Fay Wray. Most are in the Psychotronica section, but highly recommended are Ann Carver’s Profession (Columbia, 1933, which can be seen at 7:30 am, The Wedding March (Paramount, 1928), directed by Erich von Stroheim at 8 pm, the crime drama Thunderbolt (Paramount, 1929), directed by Joseph von Sternberg in his better days, at midnight, and One Sunday Afternoon (Paramount, 1933), with Gary Cooper and Neil Hamilton, at the late hour of 4:30 am. Record it – it’s worth it.
August 7: With Jean Harlow as the day’s honoree, there’s plenty to check out, beginning with The Beast of the City (MGM, 1932), also starring Walter Huston and Wallace Ford, at 10 am. At 4 pm, it’s the classic ensemble film, Dinner at Eight (MGM, 1933). Red Dust (MGM, 1932), with Harlow, Gable and Mary Astor, airs at 8 pm, followed by Harlow and Lee Tracy in the hilarious Bombshell (MGM, 1933) at 9:30. Finally, at 2:45 am comes the film that established Harlow as a star, Red-Headed Woman (MGM, 1931), also starring Chester Morris and Una Merkel.
August 11: Spencer Tracy and Bette Davis shine in the prison drama 20,000 Years in Sing-Sing (WB, 1933).
August 12: Check out Janet Gaynor in State Fair (Fox, 1933) with Will Rogers at 4:15 pm and the silent Street Angel (Fox, 1928) with Charles Farrell at 10 pm.
PSYCHOTRONICA AND THE B-HIVE
August 4: The Queen of Scream, Fay Wray, can be seen in Doctor X (WB, 1932) with Lee Tracy and Lionel Atwill, at 10:15 am. At 1 pm, Fay stars in the moody and eerie Black Moon (Columbia, 1934). Fay stars with Claude Rains in the excellent The Clairvoyant (Gaumont-British Picture Corp.) at 3:45 pm, followed by Fay as a damsel-in-distress with the vivacious Glenda Farrell in Mystery of the Wax Museum (WB, 1933) at 5:15. Lionel Atwill supplies the chills as the villain. Finally at 10 pm, Fay hits the Big Apple along with her hirsute boyfriend in King Kong(RKO, 1933).
August 5: Karl Malden is up to monkey business in the flaccid Phantom of the Rue Morgue (WB, 1954). Look for talk show host and game show creative genius Merv Griffin in a supporting role.
August 9: It’s a entire morning and afternoon of Tim Holt Westerns. Our favorites are Six-Gun Gold (RKO, 1941) at 7:15 am, Sagebrush Law (RKO, 1943) at 10:15 am, and Masked Raiders (RKO, 1949) at 1:45 pm.
At 1:30 am, it’s the psychotronic classic, Hitler’s Children (RKO, 1943), with Bonita Granville on the receiving end of Nazi punishment.
August 10: “I am Tondelayo,” says Hedy Lamarr in White Cargo (MGM, 1942) , and we believe her, though this film has to be seen to be believed. It’s another one of Hedy’s great non-carting performances set in the steamy jungle.
August 11: Spencer Tracy proves he can beat bad guys Robert Ryan, Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin with one arm missing in Bad Day at Black Rock (MGM, 1955).
August 13: Ralph Richardson stars with Raymond Massey, Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Edward Chapman in the classic Things to Come (UA, 1936), directed by William Cameron Menzies at 8 am. Later, at 4 pm, we can see him in director Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits (Handmade Films/Embassy, 1981).
August 14: It’s Cyd Charisse and Robert Taylor trying to break free from the Chicago mob in Nicholas Ray’s underrated gangster epic, Party Girl (MGM, 1958).
August 15: Roddy McDowell tries his hand as producer-star in Monogram’s Killer Shark (1950) and comes a cropper. He’s backed by a good psychotronic supporting cast in Roland Winters, Nacho Galindo, and the scrumptious Laurette Luez, who, frankly, outacts the star. It’s directed by Oscar “Budd” Boetticher – one he probably left off his resume.
BILL CARDILLE - R.I.P.
The world of psychotronic pop culture lost one of its icons when Bill “Chilly Billy” Cardille passed away at at home on July 12 from complications arising from a long bout with cancer. He was 87.
Cardille, a native of the Pittsburgh area, was famous as the voice of television station WIIC (now WPXI). His was the voice that signed the station onto the air when it started on September 1, 1957.
He was a jack-of-all trades at the studio, doing voiceovers, hosting game shows and kiddie shows. In 1960, he took over as the voice of Studio Wrestling (pro wrestling is the psychotronic sport). His sardonic style helped make it one of the station’s highest rated shows. But it was in 1964 that he gained a niche in psychotronic history when he conceived and starred as the host of Chiller Theater.
Chiller Theater was a late Saturday night staple, showing a double feature beginning at 11:30 pm interspersed with hi-jinx from its host. He would perform his duties as the weatherman for the station’s local newscast at 11 pm, then rush and change into his costume as Chilly Billy for the 11:30 opening of the horror show.
This later became the inspiration for one of the legendary characters from the comedy show SCTV. Joe Flaherty, who grew up in the Pittsburgh area watching Bill Cardille, modeled his character, Floyd Robertson, a newscaster at the small TV studio, after Cardille. In addition to his newscasting duties, Robertson would dress up in a vampire costume and become “Count Floyd” on the station’s Monster Chiller Horror Theater, promising the kiddies out there “some scary movies.” One of the funniest bits the show did was when they performed an Ingmar Bergman parody called “Moon of the Wolf,” which the station mistakenly plugged into Count Floyd’s show, thinking it was a horror picture. As the film goes on, Floyd interrupts to say that “this isn’t scary at all!” He has no idea why this film is being shown and is clearly irritated that it’s not as advertised. Those interested in the sketch can find it on You Tube.
Cardille also gained a measure of everlasting fame when he had a minor role as a field reporter in George A. Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead, the film that kicked off the zombie craze that continues to this day. His actress daughter, Lori Cardille, would later star in Romero’s 1985 sequel, Day of the Dead.
Fare thee well, Bill, you will be missed.