Ginger Rogers

What’s on TCM: July 2014

Maureen O'HaraHappy July, everyone!  With summer now in full swing, TCM has plenty of great movies to watch on hot summer nights.  Maureen O’Hara is July’s Star of the Month and will be featured every Tuesday night this month.  TCM will also be commemorating the hundredth anniversary of World War I every Friday by showing some of the best WWI movies, including The Big ParadeSergeant YorkGrand Illusion, and All Quiet on the Western Front, just to name a few.

The night I am most looking forward to this month is July 10th.  TCM will be featuring six classic documentaries such as Salesman, Harlan County USA, and Sans Soleil. I really like documentaries and that night’s movies is a nice mix of things I’m looking forward to re-watching and ones I’ve been wanting to see.

Now, on to the rest of the schedule…

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42nd Street (1933)

42nd Street 1933When word gets out that producers Jones and Barry are putting on a new show, it’s the talk of the theater world.  Since the nation is in the midst of the Great Depression, a lot of people are depending on this show; everyone from electricians and set builders to chorus girls and the show’s director need it to be a hit.  Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter) agrees to direct the show despite his doctor’s advice.  Julian has recently suffered a nervous breakdown and was advised to find a less stressful profession.  But Julian can’t afford to retire, so he needs it to be a hit so he can afford to get out of the business.

One person who is living comfortably, despite the Depression, is Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels).  She’s the girlfriend of Abner Dillon (Guy Kibbee), the show’s financial backer, which means she has no problem securing a position as the show’s leading lady. Other ladies clamor for the chance to be in the chorus, including Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler), who is new to the theater world.  But Peggy has no problem fitting in and quickly makes friends with fellow chorines Annie (Ginger Rogers) and Lorraine (Una Merkel) and catches the eye of Billy Lawler (Dick Powell).

After rehearsals get underway, the producers find out that Dorothy has been seeing her former vaudeville partner Pat Denning (George Brent) on the side.  Not wanting to endanger the show, they try to put a stop to it.  But just before the show is set to open, Abner finds out about Dorothy’s two-timing, they get into a fight, and he wants her out of the show.  The producers protest, but when Dorothy injures her ankle, they have no choice but to re-cast the lead.  Abner wants Annie to take the lead, but she knows she isn’t up to the task.  However, she believes Peggy is.

When 42nd Street was released in 1933, the concept of the backstage musical had already been done before in movies like The Broadway Melody.  But when 42nd Street came along, it not only became the ultimate backstage musical, it revolutionized the entire genre of musicals.  Everyone wanted to mimic Busby Berkley’s style of choreography.  But unlike many early musicals, 42nd Street can hardly be described as creaky or dull.  Its slick production values, catchy songs, memorable choreography, and witty banter keep it fresh even after eighty years.

What’s on TCM: September 2013

Kim Novak VertigoHappy September, everybody!  TCM’s Summer Under the Stars may be drawing to a close, but that doesn’t mean September is going to be a boring month.  In fact, September looks like it’s going to be one of my favorite TCM months in a long time.

First of all, TCM will be kicking off their major Story of Film series.  Not only will they be showing Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film — An Odyssey documentary series on Monday and Tuesday nights, but TCM will also be playing many films featured in the documentary.  This reminds me a bit of the programming TCM did when they had their Moguls and Movie Stars series back in November of 2010.  However, unlike Moguls and Movie Stars, The Story of Film looks beyond the American film industry and branches into world cinema so they will be showing many films that were not discussed during Moguls and Movie Stars.  Fans of silent films have good reason to be excited for this because there will be many nights focusing on the silent era.  If you want to expand your knowledge of film history in general, you are not going to want to miss this series.  This series will continue into October.

If you’re an Alfred Hitchcock fan, you’re going to love the Sundays with Hitch series this month.  Every Sunday, almost all day long, will be dedicated to none other than the Master of Suspense.

Kim Novak will be the Star of the Month.  Her movies can be seen every Thursday this month.

Friday Night Spotlight also makes its return with a series called “Future Shock” hosted by Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune, dedicated to movies about futuristic dystopias.  There are a few more modern movies in this line-up, but I can forgive that considering how many nights are dedicated to silent film this month.

It’s going to be a very busy month, so let’s take a closer look at the schedule…

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Primrose Path (1940)

Ellie May Adams (Ginger Rogers) is hardly living the high life.  She lives in a run-down house with her prostitute mother Mamie (Marjorie Rambeau), her former-prostitute grandmother (Queenie Vassar), her alcoholic scholar father Homer (Miles Mander), and her younger sister Honeybell (Joan Carroll).  Her father can’t hold a job so it’s up to her mother to support the family.  It’s not the best situation, but her parents love her very much and her father wants her to have something better out of life.

While on the way to the beach one day, Ellie May gets a ride with Gramp (Henry Travers), who runs a gas station and restaurant.  Ellie doesn’t have any money for lunch, so Gramp lets her have a sandwich.  While at the restaurant, Ellie meets Ed Wallace (Joel McCrea), a quick-witted waiter.  Sparks begin to fly when Ed realizes  that Ellie has no problem keeping up with his wisecracks.  Ed offers Ellie a ride home and kisses her along the way.  After that, Ellie can’t get Ed out of her head.  She goes out to see him one night, and to avoid bringing him home to meet her family, she tells him that her parents threw her out for being in love with him.

Ellie and Ed get married and wait tables in Gramp’s restaurant together.  All is going well until Mamie comes by the gas station one day with one of her “dates.”  When she gets upset over a customer’s comment about her mother, she doesn’t give the Ed the real story about why she’s upset.  Ed decides he’d like to finally meet her family, but when she takes him to their house, he quickly realizes just how many lies Ellie has told him and leaves her.  Things get even worse later that night when Homer shoots Mamie by mistake.  She doesn’t survive, leaving Ellie to support the family.  Unable to get a job on her own, she has to take her grandmother’s advice and turn to prostitution.  While out on a “date” with “Mr. Smith” (Charles Lane, uncredited), she not-so-accidentally runs into Ed to confront him.  After she leaves, “Mr. Smith” has a few words with Ed and lets him in on what’s really going on with her.

Primrose Path was a pretty darn good drama.  The writing is good, the direction by Gregory La Cava is good, and Ginger Rogers and Joel McCrea are both excellent in it.  It was definitely interesting to see Rogers in such an un-glamorous role for a change.  The supporting cast is wonderful, Marjorie Rambeau absolutely deserved her Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination.

The most surprising thing about Primrose Path is that it somehow got made with the production codes being enforced at the time.  The word “prostitute” is never actually used, but the movie isn’t subtle at all about it.  Not only is prostitution central to the storyline, but Mamie is a very sympathetic character.

All in all, it’s a very enjoyable movie.  Definitely keep an eye out for this one.

What’s on TCM: August 2012

How is it already time for another round of Summer Under the Stars?!  As usual, TCM has done a great job of coming up with a nice blend of stars who are no strangers to the SUTS schedule and stars who have never been featured before.  The more I look at the schedule, the more excited I get to start my Blogging Under the Stars marathon.

Some of the days I’m most looking forward to are: Myrna Loy (August 2), Marilyn Monroe (August 4), Toshiro Mifune (August 9), Ginger Rogers (August 12), James Cagney (August 14), Lillian Gish (August 15), Jack Lemmon (August 22), Gene Kelly (August 23), Kay Francis (August 21), and Warren William (August 30).  I have seen woefully few Akira Kurosawa films, so I am really looking forward to Toshiro Mifune’s day.  As a fan of silents and pre-codes, I was thrilled to see Lillian Gish, Kay Francis, and Warren William got spots on this year’s line-up.  Lately, I’ve been really getting into Tyrone Power movies, so I’m glad to see he got a day this year.  And since I’ve always wanted to see more Jeanette MacDonald movies, I’ll definitely be tuning in a lot for her day.

The complete Summer Under the Stars schedule is available to be download here.

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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.

Fashion in Film: Top Hat

In my last Fashion in Film post, I talked about how costumes can reveal a lot about what a character is like and what they’re feeling.  Now let’s move to the other end of the spectrum where the costumes might not be as insightful, but perfectly represent what the movie was supposed to be.  Top Hat is one of the greatest musicals to come out during the Great Depression and one of the finest pairings of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.  Depression era musicals were all about escapism and fantasy and Top Hat definitely has plenty of that.

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