Fred Astaire

What’s on TCM: December 2013

Astaire and Rogers in Swing Time2013 is drawing to a close and TCM is ending the year in style!  If you like musicals, this is your kind of month.  First of all, Fred Astaire is December’s Star of the Month!  So put on your dancing shoes every Wednesday night and get ready for lots of fabulous dance scenes.  On December 18, there will be a tribute to Betty Comden and Adolph Green so there will be a lot of excellent musicals on during the day.  New Year’s Eve will also be very musical with rock and roll oriented movies during the day and the That’s Entertainment! series playing all night long.

This theme for December’s edition of Friday Night Spotlight is The Hollywood Costume, which is curated by costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis.  If you enjoyed participating in or reading posts from the Fashion in Film Blogathon, I’m sure you’re going to love this series.

Remember how last month I said that the Story of Film series was finishing up?  Yeah, I have no idea what I was thinking when I said that.  It definitely ends this month.  I apologize for my mistake.

Since it’s December, there will be lots of classic Christmas movies to look forward to.  On December 30th, TCM will also be honoring some stars we lost in 2012 but were not already honored with special tributes including Deanna Durbin, Annette Funicello, and Karen Black.

So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the schedule…

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Holiday Inn (1942)

Holiday Inn PosterJim Hardy (Bing Crosby) and Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire), along with Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale), are a successful song-and-dance act, but Jim has had just about enough of the showbiz lifestyle.  He plans to do one last performance on Christmas Eve, then marry Lila, move to a farm in Connecticut, and enjoy a more leisurely life.  However, Lila has other plans.  She’s fallen in love with Ted and wants to keep performing with him, so Jim retires to that Connecticut farm by himself.  But Jim quickly realizes that living on a farm takes a lot more work than he anticipated and Jim winds up having to spend some time resting in a sanitarium.

Going to a sanitarium wasn’t all bad, though.  Being there gave Jim time to think and he came up with the idea of turning his farm into an inn that is only open on holidays.  Ted and Danny (Walter Abel), Jim’s manager, aren’t too keen on the idea, but when Danny runs into aspiring dancer Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds), he tells her to get in touch with Jim.  When she arrives at Jim’s farm on Christmas day, she and Jim have an instant rapport and he hires her to perform at the inn’s opening night on New Year’s Eve.

Opening night is a big success, but just before the stroke of midnight, an unexpected guest arrives — Ted.  Lila had just left Ted and now Ted’s very drunk and looking to talk to Jim.  But before he can find Jim, he winds up dancing with Linda and the two of them are the hit of the night.  The next morning, Jim can’t remember who he danced with, but he knows that she’s his dream dance partner and sets out on a mission to find her again.  Not wanting Linda to run off with Ted the way Lila had, Jim proposes to Linda and tries anything to stop Ted from finding her.  But Ted finally figures out the truth on Valentine’s Day and wants to start performing with her at the inn.

Ted continues trying to woo Linda, but Linda stays faithful to Jim.  But when Jim finds out that some Hollywood agents will be coming to the inn to see Jim and Linda perform, Jim fixes it so that she misses the performance and Ted has to perform alone.  After Linda finally does make it to the inn, she finds out what Jim has done and is hurt that Jim doesn’t trust her.  She heads off to Hollywood with Ted to star in a movie based on the story of the Holiday Inn while Jim stays in Connecticut, following their romance through movie fan magazines.  Ted is completely lost without Linda, and with some encouragement from his housekeeper Mamie (Louise Beavers), flies to Hollywood on Christmas Eve to make one last attempt to win Linda back.

Holiday Inn is definitely one of my essential Christmastime movies.  I love Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby together and all those wonderful Irving Berlin songs are the icing on the cake.  Even though I think the character of Ted is a bit of a jerk, leave it to Fred Astaire to play him with enough charm to still be likeable.  Of course, Holiday Inn is best remembered for introducing the song “White Christmas,” which went on to become one of the most successful singles of all time.  As memorable as Bing’s songs are, I absolutely adore some of Fred’s dance numbers such as the firecracker dance and the drunken New Years Eve dance.

Even though Holiday Inn is generally thought of as being a Christmas movie, it covers so many different holidays that you could probably watch it any time of year and not feel completely out of season.  It’s an absolutely delightful movie.  The only thing stopping me from saying, “What’s not to like?” about it is that unfortunate “Abraham” musical number featuring Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds in blackface.

What’s on TCM: July 2012

Happy July, everyone!  Hard to believe that it’s already almost time for Summer Under the Stars, but TCM has lots of fun stuff going on in July to keep us busy until then.  Leslie Howard is the Star of the Month and his movies will be on every Tuesday night this month.  Every Monday in July will be dedicated to showing 24 hours of adventure movies.  Spike Lee is this month’s guest programmer and has chosen some excellent movies for the night of July 5th.  There are a lot of good things to mention, so let’s get to it:

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Flying Down to Rio (1933)

Band leader Roger Bond (Gene Raymond) is a notorious womanizer.  While his band is playing in Miami, the lovely Belinha De Rezenda (Dolores del Rio) catches his eye and isn’t about to let the hotel’s rule about staff not fraternizing with guests stand in his way.  Fred Ayers (Fred Astaire), his friend/choreographer/accordion player, knows that this will not end well at all and sure enough, he is right.  When Belinha’s chaperone finds out what Roger is doing, she gets him fired.  But when he finds out Belinha is headed to Rio de Janeiro, he gets in touch with his friend Julio (Raul Roulien) in Rio and gets the band a gig playing at the hotel Julio works at.  And it just so happens that Roger likes to fly and has his own two-seat plane, so he offers to give Belinha a lift.

Along the way, Roger plays the old “engine trouble” card and lands his plane on a secluded beach in Haiti.  He spends the whole night trying to win Belinha over, but he soon finds out there is one little detail she’s neglected to mention — she’s engaged.  Roger isn’t about to let that stand in the way, but when she finds out that there wasn’t really a problem with the engine, she storms off and catches another plane to Rio.  When Roger finally makes his own way to Rio, he asks his friend Julio to help him win Belinha back, but doesn’t realize that Julio is the person Belinha is engaged to.  Not only that, her father owns the hotel they’re now playing at.

While Fred and Honey Hale (Ginger Rogers), the band’s singer, are having fun learning the local dances, things aren’t going so smoothly for Belinha’s father.  Some business rivals are trying to put his hotel out of business before it even opens and has the police shut down the band’s rehearsals, knowing they couldn’t get their entertainment permits in time for the grand opening festivities.  But then Roger has a stroke of genius and decides to do their show in the air, where they wouldn’t need permits.  They come up with a show that involves plenty of showgirls dancing on the wings of airplanes.  The show is a huge success and Belinha’s father is so grateful to Roger for saving his hotel that he sends him a heartfelt letter thanking him for all he has done.  After that, Roger doesn’t have the heart to split up Belinha and Julio.  But Julio realizes that Belinha would be much happier with Roger and doesn’t want to get between them.

Flying Down to Rio is best remembered for being the first movie to feature Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers together.  But don’t go into it expecting something along the lines of Swing Time or Follow the Fleet.  Flying Down to Rio was really intended to be a vehicle for Dolores del Rio, so Fred and Ginger are just supporting roles.  But even in their supporting role status, they’re clearly the scene stealers of the movie.  If you set the Fred and Ginger factor aside, Flying Down to Rio stands well on its own as a real pre-code classic.  It’s got some fun innuendo and even though there’s no way that musical number on the airplanes would ever actually work as a real show, it’s such an unforgettable scene.  Overall, a very fun movie.

Dancing Lady (1933)

Not being able to get any other kind of job, Janie Barlow (Joan Crawford) resorts to taking a job in a burlesque club.  When her club gets raided one night, she gets dragged into night court and the wealthy playboy Tod Newton (Franchot Tone) and his friends go along with them to see what happens.  Finding himself attracted to Janie, he pays her bail and once she’s out, takes her out on a date and sends her home with some extra money for a new dress.  She’s attracted to Tod, too, but is afraid he’s out of her league.  She also decides that she’s had enough of burlesque and is determined to get a job in a legitimate show.  She hears that Patch Gallagher (Clark Gable) is putting on a new show and starts stalking him, determined to get in.  Patch blows her off at every turn, but as anybody in showbiz knows, it pays to have connections.  Tod offers to send a letter of introduction to Jasper Bradley, Patch’s boss.  That letter gets her an audition and even though they try to brush her off, she proves to be a very talented dancer and gets in the show.

What Janie doesn’t know is that Tod also offered to help fund the show if she gets in.  She works very hard in rehearsals and even begins to win over Patch, who is starting to fall for her.  He even takes her out of the chorus and makes her a star.  Meanwhile, she continues seeing Tod.  Tod is very much in love with her, but with Janie’s career taking off, she’s not particularly interested in getting married.  But Tod sees an easy solution to this — buy the show out and close it so that Janie has nothing else to do but get married to Tod.  Janie isn’t just disappointed because she doesn’t get to be a star, but also because she had fallen in love with Patch, too.

Janie and Tod take a trip to Cuba together, but Patch is determined to have the show go on and puts his own money into it.  Janie and Tod return just before the show is set to open, but they run into a very drunk Patch in a nightclub.  Patch can’t resist telling Janie about what Tod has done and when she finds out the truth, she is horrified.  She goes to see Patch and begs him to let her back into the show.  Janie gets her job back, the show opens, and naturally, it’s a big success.  Tod makes one last attempt to win Janie back, but now she knows where her heart truly lies.

Dancing Lady was clearly MGM’s attempt to keep up with Warner Brothers’ Busby Berkeley musicals.  You clearly see the influence of Berkeley’s choreography, but even MGM couldn’t fully capture the brilliance of the real thing.  But that being said, it’s a very entertaining movie.  It’s got lots of fun, saucy pre-code lines and I loved the entire cast.  Actually, I think the cast is the most interesting thing about Dancing Lady.  First of all, you’ve got Joan Crawford with Clark Gable and Franchot Tone, two of her best co-stars.  But then you’ve also got The Three Stooges plus Nelson Eddy and Fred Astaire, both making their film debuts.  Yes, believe it or not, it is possible to see Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Fred Astaire, and The Three Stooges together in the same movie.  It’s a very unlikely bunch of people to wind up in a movie together, but I can’t help but love the fact that it actually happened.  All in all, a great movie, one of my favorite 1930s Joan Crawford movies.

Classic Film Ringtones

Earlier today I decided I was sick of the ringtone I had on my phone so I started looking through the Verizon website to see if I could find anything more interesting.  I started by looking through ones from some of my favorite bands, but then I started searching for classic movie songs.  I wasn’t really expecting much, but I ended up finding more than I expected to.  So if you want your phone to reflect your classic film fan status, here are some of the best ones I found:

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My Top 100, 20-11

Another week, another ten movies!  This week, I’ve got lots of musicals, some silents that have only gotten better with age, and movies with some of my favorite snappy lines.  Now, onto the movies!

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My Top 100, 30-21

Wow, I can’t believe we’re already up to number 30! This week is another week where if you don’t know anything at all about my style and only saw these ten movies, you’d get a pretty good idea of what my taste is.  So, let’s get on with the list!

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My Top 100, 80-71

It’s Friday again, which means it’s time to count down ten more of my favorite movies!  All I really have to say about this bunch of movies is that almost all of my favorite types of movies are represented here.  Silents, musicals, foreign, film noir, drama, comedy, they’re all there.  The only way this week’s bunch could be more ‘me’ is if I had worked in some offbeat B-movie in there somewhere.  Now, onto number 80…

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Ziegfeld Follies (1945)

Part 3 of my Ziegfeld in Hollywood series.

In a way, Ziegfeld Follies is kind of like Man With a Movie Camera: they’re both movies that are rather difficult to write about since neither one has a real plot.  They’re both concept movies.  In the case of Ziegfeld Follies, the concept is Florenz Ziegfeld (played once again by William Powell) in Heaven planning a show featuring some of the greatest film stars.  The movie is a true all-star extravaganza featuring the likes of Judy Garland, Esther Williams, Lena Horne, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Fanny Brice, Kathryn Grayson, Red Skelton, and Lucille Ball in a series of musical numbers and comedy sketches like you might see in the Ziegfeld Follies.

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