Turner Classic Movies has released the schedule of this year’s “Summer Under the Stars” – a programming event that features films from one actor or actress each day in the month of August. Here’s when we suggest waking up with a “massive headache” or “nausea” so you can call in sick to work:
Thursday, August 2 – Myrna Loy
Are you ready for this? Starting at 1pm you can watch, in a row: Libeled Lady, Wife vs. Secretary, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, The Best Years of Our Lives, The Thin Man, and Cheaper by the Dozen. *achew* I can already feel that cold coming on…
Sunday, August 5 – Claude Rains
Everyone’s favorite English actor with a French name takes center stage with showings of Kings Row; Now, Voyager; The Invisible Man; Mr. Skeffington; and The Adventures of Robin Hood.
Tuesday, August 14 – James Cagney
A diverse schedule from gangster films to Billy Wilder comedies, this lineup includes The Public Enemy; White Heat; and One, Two, Three.
Wednesday, August 29 – Ingrid Bergman
I’ve been waiting forever to see Gaslight. I’m also curious about the Hitchcock-directed Under Capricorn. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sounds appealing as well.
Check tcm.com for the full schedule – it should be up soon.
I’m sure most of you classic film fans have already seen The Best Years of Our Lives, but for those of you new to classic film this is a must see! This film isn’t set on the battlefield, but instead tells the story of the soldiers after the war is over.
Three World War II veterans return home at the end of the war in hopes of restarting their lives where they left off. Sergeant Al Stephenson (Frederick March) comes home to his wife (Myrna Loy) and two children only to find that he feels like a stranger around his own family. Captain Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) returns to his wife (Virginia Mayo) that he married just before shipping out and barely knows. Fred is a decorated Air Forces Captain and bombardier, but is unskilled as a civilian and has difficulties finding and holding a job. Homer Parish (played by nonprofessional actor Harold Russell) lost both hands while in the Navy and struggles with the guilt of burdening his fiance with his disability.
What I like about the film
The Best Years of Our Lives is extremely moving and emotional. It’s message about the hardships war veterans face after returning home is just as relevant today as it was 65 years ago. Harold Russell is one of the highlights of the film and puts in an amazing and genuine performance as Homer despite not being a professional actor. Russell lost both hands while serving as an Army instructor and was discovered by director William Wyler who saw him in a film about rehabilitating war veterans. Russell deservingly won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and also an honorary Academy Award for his performance and service.
There is one particular scene that has stuck with me in particular. Dana Andrew’s character Fred visits an airfield that has been turned into an aircraft boneyard for hundreds of aircraft. The imagery of the planes waiting to be scrapped and turned into manufactured homes mirrors the fate of the returning servicemen who must reform their own lives. The scene is haunting and sobering, but ends on an uplifting note.
Since reports of a Rob Marshall/Johnny Depp Thin Man remake have surfaced, all I’ve heard from the classic film community is negative comments about how it’s a stupid idea, leave the original alone, how dare they, etc. Even though The Thin Man and five sequels are some of my favorite movies ever, I’m not going to criticize the film before I see it and here’s why:
1) Remakes can be good.
I adore the movie High Society (1956). It’s got a soon-to-be-princess Grace Kelly, fabulous outfits, and Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra sing a bunch of Cole Porter songs. It’s the perfect Saturday morning movie. It’s also a remake of 1940′s The Philadelphia Story. Is it as fantastic as it’s original? Not really, but it’s still a delightful little film. Even the five Thin Man sequels don’t measure up to the first film, but I still get a huge amount of enjoyment from watching them. Then there’s An Affair To Remember (1957), the much-loved remake of 1939′s Love Affair. Other successful remakes include Scarface (1983), Ocean’s Eleven (2001), Father of the Bride (1991), Little Shop of Horrors (1986), and The Departed (2006).
2) The abundant negativism just makes us look stuffy and out of touch.
On Twitter, the classic film community is beginning to sound like our grandparents who had to walk ten miles to school, in the snow, uphill both ways. Let’s not alienate any young people from the medium we love so much because we come across as crotchety film snobs.
3) A remake introduces a whole new audience to the original.
Hey, at least kids will hear the names Nick and Nora and know it’s something other than bedsheets and pj’s! With all the media discussion about the remake, the original gets a ton of press and garners interest from young fans who never knew it existed. New classic film fans! What more can we ask for?
So while I don’t think that anyone can replicate the cinematic awesomeness of William Powell/Nick, Myrna Loy/Nora, and Skippy/Asta, condeming the remake won’t help our case either. Not that I’m working on a case… unless it’s a case of scotch.
Alix picks: Peter P. Peters (Fred Astaire) and Linda Keene (Ginger Rogers) in Shall We Dance (1937).
Peter (Petrov) and Linda are my favorite quarreling couple because their petty arguments keep the film lighthearted and provide a lead into a few great song and dance numbers. One petty quarrel over the pronounciation of “either” and “neither” turns into the song “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and a dance sequence on roller skates. Watch the scene here.
Lindsay picks: Nick & Nora Charles in The Thin Man (1934) and 5 sequels
Forget best quarreling couple, these two are the best fictional couple EVER. But that’s another post. Over the course of 6 films it’s great fun to watch Nick and Nora banter, bicker, tease, joke, argue, pester, and quarrel all while admittedly being very much in love. William Powell and Myrna Loy are irresistibly charming in what became their signature roles.
Alix chose: Bette Davis and Paul Henreid
Bette Davis and Paul Henreid only appeared in one film together, Now, Voyager but manage to make a lasting impression. Unlike some romantic film actors, Davis and Henreid don’t rely on overt physical acting to portray the mood. Even though the film is often referred to as a soap opera, nothing these two actors do is camp or feels too over dramatic. Every movement is subtle and adds up to the overall effect, for example, when Jerry nonchalantly lights two cigarettes and hands one to Charlotte. And what girl wouldn’t fall in love with a guy like that? The two did reunite one other time in the 1964 film, Dead Ringer, in which Davis starred and Henreid directed.
Lindsay chose: Myrna Loy and William Powell
One of the most prolific couplings in film history, Powell and Loy made about a gazillion (translation = 14) movies together. In the comedic films, they are as cute as a guinea pig in a dinosaur costume. They’re the perfect pairing because they both have a certain normalcy about them. Powell is the likeable, unpretentious gentleman and Loy is, in this stage of her career, warm and graceful. But don’t mistake them for boring – both have a wit and sass that, when paired with their “everymanness” makes them truly unique in the classic film world. Check them out as the smart and funny (and well-liquored) Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man (and ensuing 5 sequels). Other notable appearances include Libeled Lady (1936), Love Crazy (1941), and I Love You Again (1940).
Co-starring: James Stewart, May Robson, George Barbier
Directed by: Clarence Brown
Other notable contributors: costume design by Adrian
Favorite scene: Linda, Loy’s character (the wife), and Whitey, Harlow’s character (the secretary), exchange a long look at the end that sets everything straight.
Favorite line: “Don’t look for trouble where there isn’t any, because if you don’t find it, you’ll make it.” – Dave
Raves: It’s really the stars of the film that make it worth watching. Gable and Loy are great as always, but I really enjoyed Jean Harlow in a role where she isn’t just the blonde bombshell. Jimmy Stewart also does a great job in a supporting role as the boyfriend of Jean Harlow’s character, Dave.
Rants: The wife being jealous of the husband’s secretary isn’t the most original plot.
My take: What I really love about the film is how differently the two couples are depicted. The scenes between Harlow and Stewart are especially wonderful and its unfortunate they never made another film together. Also, although the title suggests a comedy, I see the film as really more of a drama with fun parts.
Recommended if: you’re looking for an easy to watch film with some great stars.
Modern-Day counterpart: The only modern counterpart I could think of would be Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) based on the love triangle between characters. Anybody have a better suggestion?