Happy new year! I hope you all had a very happy holiday season. I had a lot of fun revisiting all my favorite holiday movies in December, but now it’s time to get back to watching more regular movies and luckily, TCM is going to make that transition very easy for me.
Break out the shoulder pads, eyebrow pencils, and Pepsi because Joan Crawford is the Star of the Month! A marathon of Joan Crawford movies will start every Thursday night at 8:00 PM and each week will focus on a different era of Joan’s career.
This month’s installment of Friday Night Spotlight will feature Science in the Movies and is going to be hosted by Dr. Sean Michael Carroll, PhD, a senior research associate at the California Institute of Technology’s Physics department.
Other noteworthy things happening in January include Judge Judy as Guest Programmer, a celebration of past and present recipients of the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, and 24 hours of movies by Columbia Pictures to commemorate the studio’s 90th anniversary. Now, let’s take a more detailed look at the line-up…
When gunrunner Tony Evans (Ricardo Corez) leaves his girlfriend Tanya (Kay Francis) behind for a job, he leaves her in the care of his boss Nick (Warner Oland). Nick wants her to work at his nightclub and, feeling betrayed, Tanya initially refuses to do have anything to do with Nick and his club. But then she realizes that using her looks and working at the club might actually help her get out of there. While working at the club, she becomes known as Spot White, notorious woman of affairs. In fact, she’s so notorious that the police commissioner wants her to leave the country. And she does, but not without blackmailing him for some money first.
Tanya gets on a boat headed for Mandalay and changes her name to Marjorie Lang. Not long after getting on board, she cuts herself, which leads her to meet Dr. Gregory Burton (Lyle Talbot). Like Marjorie, Gregory is looking to start a new life. Gregory once killed a patient when he performed surgery while drunk, so now he wants to go to an area facing a deadly fever outbreak to make amends. Marjorie and Gregory fall in love during the voyage, but Marjorie’s happiness is interrupted when she finds out Tony is also on board.
Tony wants to get back together with Marjorie, but she wants nothing to do with him. But when Tony gets word that the police are after him, he fakes his own death and Marjorie is blamed for it. But after her name is cleared, she discovers Tony is still alive and this time, she really does kill him.
Mandalay may not be anything substantial, but it is a very entertaining way to spend a little over an hour. It’s over the top and trashy, but in the most wonderful way. If you like Kay Francis, you’re going to love her in Mandalay. She’s really at her pre-code best here. And if you’re a fan of pre-codes in general, Mandalay is a must-see. It’s got just about everything — prostitution, alcoholism, murder
Baroness Teri (Kay Francis) has a life that many would envy. She’s married to Baron Franz (Henry Kolker), who can easily afford to buy her all the furs and jewelery she could ever want. There’s just one problem — he’s incredibly boring. Teri desperately needs some excitement in her life, so she openly dates other men, but gets bored with them pretty quickly, too.
When Teri and Franz go to a jewelery store so that Franz can buy Teri a very large diamond ring, the store is robbed by an unnamed robber (William Powell). This is no ordinary jewel thief, though. He’s very suave, charming, and has the unusual habit of giving marijuana to the people he robs so they won’t call the police. And it just so happens that this robber is exactly the type of man Teri has been longing for. He flirts with her as he steals her new ring from her, and she’s so enchanted with him that she doesn’t even need the marijuana to stop her from talking to the cops.
When Teri gets back home, she finds some mysterious flowers waiting for her and discovers that her jewelry safe has been opened. However, nothing has been stolen. In fact, something has been added to it — the ring that had just been stolen from her. The robber sneaks up to her room and Teri tries to get him to take the ring back since there’s no way for her to wear it without raising suspicions. He refuses, and it isn’t long before there’s a knock at the door from Detective Fritz (Alan Mowbray), who arrests Teri for being an accomplice to the robber.
It just so happens that Detective Fritz isn’t a detective after all, he’s actually working for the robber. Fritz brings Teri to the robber’s apartment, where he spends the night wooing her and she falls even more deeply under his spell. They make plans to run away to Nice together, but before they can leave, the real police show up. The robber and his gang escape, but first, they tie Teri to a chair so the cops won’t accuse her of being an accomplice. When all is said and done, her name stays clear, but she announces that she could use a vacation to recover from her “ordeal.” Perhaps some time in Nice would do the trick…
If you know someone who thinks old movies were all super sanitized and boring, Jewel Robbery is the perfect movie to prove them wrong. With its witty banter, infidelity, jewel heists, and drug use, Jewel Robbery is perfectly pre-code from start to finish. The chemistry between Kay Francis and William Powell is phenomenal and it’s very hard not to laugh at the scenes of the jewelery store’s security guard acting high as a kite after the robber gives him that joint. There’s nothing about it I didn’t like. It’s a total delight to watch and is absolutely essential pre-code viewing.
The Amateur Cracksman is a pro at breaking into safes and making off with jewelery, but he always manages to stay out of reach of Scotland Yard. The real identity of the Amateur Cracksman is none other than A.J. Raffles (Ronald Colman). Raffles has recently fallen in love with Gwen (Kay Francis) and is about to give up the safecracking racket and go straight so that he and Gwen can be married. Just after he thinks he’s pulled his last heist, his friend Bunny (Bramwell Fletcher) attempts suicide over a gambling debt. So to help his friend out, Raffles decides to go for one more heist.
Raffles sets his sights on stealing a very valuable necklace belonging to Lady Kitty Melrose (Alison Skipworth), so he and Bunny attend a party at the Melrose estate and Raffles goes to work trying to get in good with Kitty. But Raffles isn’t the only one after the Melrose necklace. A burglar named Crawshaw (John Rogers) also has plans to steal it, but Scotland Yard found out about his plan and Inspector McKenzie (David Torrence) comes to the house to let everyone know about it. Later that night, Crawshaw breaks in and gets the necklace, but Raffles manages to take the necklace from Crawshaw.
The police nab Crawshaw on the spot, but he vows to come after Raffles someday. The next morning, Raffles heads off to London, feeling like he isn’t good enough for Gwen. Gwen doesn’t know that Raffles is the Amateur Cracksman, but she soon begins to put the pieces together and she still loves him. Meanwhile, Inspector McKenzie is also beginning to figure out who Raffles really is and decides to let Crawshaw go free, hoping that he will go to London looking for Raffles.
Sure enough, Crawshaw does go to London, but Gwen gets there before him and warns him about McKenzie’s plan. McKenzie is also in town, just waiting for Crawshaw to get Raffles to confess. When Crawshaw finally shows up, ready to kill, Raffles is so smooth that he manages to talk him down, return the necklace to the Melrose family, collect the reward money, confess to being the Amateur Cracksman, and escape to run off to Paris with Gwen.
If you’re a fan of either Ronald Colman or Kay Francis, you will absolutely want to see Raffles. They made an excellent team and both of them were perfect for their respective roles. I would have liked to have seen more of Kay in it, though. Raffles also features some very beautiful cinematography thanks to Gregg Toland, who was a co-cinematographer on it. Even though this was fairly early in Toland’s career, it’s very clear that he had a bright future ahead of him. If you’re in the mood for a short but clever heist film, Raffles comes very highly recommended. It’s slick, stylish, fast-paced, and sophisticated.
When Dan (William Powell) meets Joan (Kay Francis) in a bar in Hong Kong, it’s love at first sight. They have a drink together, but end up going their separate ways. What neither of them realizes is that the other doesn’t have much time to live. You wouldn’t know it by looking at her, but Joan is extremely sick. She’s about to set sail for San Francisco so she can go to a sanitarium, but there’s a good chance she won’t survive the trip. Dan is a murderer on the run from the law and gets arrested by Steve Burke (Warren Hymer) as soon as he leaves the bar that night. Steve’s going to take Dan back to San Francisco where he will be executed.
As fate would have it, Dan and Joan wind up on the same boat to San Francisco. Joan’s doctor wants her to spend the trip resting, but she knows she doesn’t have much time left so she wants to live it up while she can. When she finds out Dan is on board and has been looking for her, she ignores the doctor’s orders and spends all the time she can with Dan. She remains in the dark about his criminal background and he has no idea about her illness, but they are madly in love with each other. Dan is able to spend so much time with Joan thanks to some help from his criminal friends Skippy (Frank McHugh) and Betty (Aline McMahon). Betty is on board posing as a countess so she and Skippy keep distracting Steve so that Dan can be with Joan. But Betty ends up spending so much time with Steve that they also end up falling in love.
When the ship makes a stop in Honolulu, Dan and Joan spend an unforgettable day ashore together and Dan wants to come clean to her about his past. But just as he’s about to break the news, she faints and he takes her back to the ship. Her doctor warns Dan that any more shocking news could kill her, so Dan keeps his secret. She ends up discovering the truth about Dan just before the ship docks in San Francisco and, naturally, she’s surprised. But that doesn’t stop her from saying goodbye to Dan and agreeing to meet him at a bar in Mexico on New Year’s Eve, even though they both know they won’t be able to keep the date.
What’s not to like about One Way Passage? Kay Francis and William Powell were perfection in it. Their chemistry together was superb and both of them give excellent performances. Powell in particular gives one of the best performances of his career. Aline McMahon and Frank McHugh make the supporting cast every bit as memorable as Powell and Francis. I loved the very dreamlike atmosphere of the movie. One Way Passage is a prime example of those early 1930s gems that aren’t very long, but make every single second count. If you haven’t already seen it, definitely be sure to keep an eye out for it. I know I wish I had seen it sooner.
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.
Posted in TCM
Tagged Anthony Quinn, Ava Gardner, Claude Rains, Deborah Kerr, Eva Marie Saint, Gary Cooper, Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Ingrid Bergman, Irene Dunne, Jack Lemmon, James Caan, James Cagney, Jeanette MacDonald, John Wayne, Johnny Weissmuller, Katharine Hepburn, Kay Francis, Lillian Gish, Lionel Barrymore, Marilyn Monroe, Myrna Loy, Rita Hayworth, Sidney Poitier, Tyrone Power, Van Heflin, Warren William
After being fired from her job as a governess, a very straight-laced Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) finds herself deemed unemployable by her employment agency. But when she hears about a job for a woman named Delysia LaFosse (Amy Adams), she jumps at the chance to get it. When she arrives at Delysia’s apartment, she expects she will be taking care of children. Instead, she finds herself taking care of an aspiring actress tangled up in a love triangle. First there’s the young theater producer, Phil Goldman (Tom Payne), who is putting on a play that Delysia desperately wants the lead in. She’s trying to keep him interested in her and not her rival Charlotte Warren. Then there’s Nick Calderelli (Mark Strong), who owns the nightclub Delysia sings at. He’s the one footing the bill for her lavish apartment and expensive clothes. And last but not least, there’s Michael (Lee Pace), the piano player who just got out of jail. He isn’t rich and doesn’t have the influence Nick and Phil do, but he does genuinely love her.
Over the course of one day, Guinevere helps Delysia get out of various messes and Delysia, in turn, helps Guinevere learn to embrace life. Delysia takes Guinevere to her friend Edythe’s (Shirley Henderson) salon and gives her a makeover. It turns out that Edythe and Guinevere have a little dirt on each other. They had bumped into each other on the street the night before Guinevere came to Delysia’s, so Edythe knows Guinevere isn’t really the social secretary Delysia thinks she is. But Guinevere saw Edythe out with a man who isn’t her lingerie designer boyfriend Joe Blomfield (Ciarán Hinds). When Delysia takes Guinevere with her to a lingerie show, Guinevere meets Joe for herself and the two of them are instantly attracted to each other.
Although released in 2008, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day was actually intended to be made as a movie in 1941. Originally, it was a novel by Winifred Watson released in 1937, and she later sold the film rights to Universal Studios in 1939. Universal held on to it for a little while and by 1941, had plans to turn it into a musical starring Billie Burke as Miss Pettigrew. Watson was very eager to see “Miss Pettigrew…” turned into a movie, but unfortunately, the project was shelved after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In 1954, Universal renewed the rights to the story, but again, nothing ever became of it. Watson died in 2002 believing her story would never make it to the silver screen.
The novel was released in 1937, but I wish it had been released just a few years earlier because I think “Miss Pettigrew” would have made a great pre-code had it been around in 1934. Delysia’s bed-hopping to further her career is hardly a secret, there’s lots of lingerie, and the book contains drug references. I’m very curious about how Universal planned to get around some of these issues in 1941. The drug references were gone in the 2008 movie, so those could easily been cut out in 1941, but whitewashing Delysia’s bed-hopping would have definitely been a challenge. I also would have pegged this for an MGM movie rather than a Universal.
Posted in Blogathons, Comedies, Movies That Could Have Been
Tagged Amy Adams, Billie Burke, Christina Cole, Ciaran Hinds, Clark Gable, Frances McDormand, Franchot Tone, Jean Harlow, Kay Francis, Lee Pace, Mark Strong, Melvyn Douglas, Rosalind Russell, Shirley Henderson, Tom Payne, William Powell
Happy April, everybody! TCM has a pretty fun schedule this month, but it’s organized a little differently than usual. Usually things like the Star of the Month nights get one night each week. But this month, those nights are all in one week from Monday to Friday. Doris Day is the April Star of the Month so her movies will be on every night from April 2-6. TCM will also be doing a spring break week this month from April 16-20, so every night will be fun, beachy movies like Gidget and Frankie and Annette Beach Party movies. Now, onto the schedule:
Posted in TCM
Tagged Anthony Perkins, Barbra Streisand, Charlie Chaplin, Doris Day, Edward G. Robinson, Gregory Peck, Harold Lloyd, Hope Lange, Jean Negulesco, Kay Francis, Laurel & Hardy, Liza Minnelli, Marlon Brando, Peter O'Toole, Shirley MacLaine, Sophia Loren
If you want to steal from wealthy people, you have to get close to wealthy people. And what’s the best way to get close to wealthy people? Pretend to be a fellow wealthy person! That’s just what Gaston Monescu (Herbert Marshall) does when he goes to Venice. While pretending to be a Baron, he steals from plenty of prominent guests, including a countess named Lily (Miriam Hopkins). Only Lily isn’t really a countess, she’s also a thief so she recognizes what Gaston is really there for. He had her pegged, too, after she swiped his wallet. The two of them are so impressed with each other’s thieving skills that they fall madly in love with each other on the spot.
Lily and Gaston are quite the crooks and they steal their way across Europe. While in Paris, they steal a diamond-studded handbag belonging to Mariette Colet (Kay Francis), the owner of a very famous perfume company. But when Mariette puts out an ad offering a 20,000 Franc reward for the bag’s return, they realize they’d make more by turning it in than by selling it and Gaston goes to turn it in. But when Gaston gets there and realizes that Mariette is awfully careless with her money, he convinces her to hire him as her secretary, planning to embezzle money from her company. The plan works and Lily even gets hired on as Gaston’s assistant. The only thing that doesn’t go according to plan is that Gaston and Mariette fall in love with each other.
Eventually, Mariette starts bringing Gaston along with her to social gatherings, but some of Mariette’s wealthy friends recognize Gaston. Plus people in the company are starting to suspect that Gaston has been stealing money for them. Even though her friends warn her about him, Mariette doesn’t want to give up on Gaston. Meanwhile, Gaston and Lily are planning to skip town, but Gaston is torn between staying with Mariette or leaving with Lily. The last thing they had planned to steal was 100,000 Francs from her safe, but before they leave, Gaston decides to come clean to Mariette about who he is and what he was really there to do. Lily interrupts his confession to announce that she is the one who has stolen the 100,000 Francs and that Mariette is welcome to have Gaston for that price and leaves Gaston to decide who he wants to be with.
I positively adore Trouble in Paradise. It’s sharp, witty, got plenty of lavish sets, and a top-notch cast. There’s no going wrong with Miriam Hopkins in an Ernst Lubitsch comedy, but when you add in Kay Francis and Herbert Marshall, plus Charlie Ruggles and Edward Everett Horton in some supporting roles, you’ve got cinematic gold. I just love everything about it. Trouble in Paradise is total pre-code and pure Ernst Lubitsch.
So many showgirls dream of meeting a wealthy man and giving up the stage to marry them. But Peggy Stone (Kay Francis) is one of the few who actually sees that dream come true. When we first meet her, she’s working as a showgirl and even though she is seeing Lyndon Fiske (John Halliday), she is also seeing Monte Van Tyle (Gene Raymond). Although she’s enjoyed her time with Lyndon, Monte is the one she loves and when he proposes, she gladly accepts. When she breaks the news to Lyndon, he appears to take it in stride. Monte and Peggy get married, head off to Europe for their honeymoon, and when they return, they move into a home on 56th Street that Monte had built for them. Married life is wonderful for the Van Tyles. They couldn’t be happier and they soon welcome a daughter, Eleanor.
But that all changes one day when Peggy runs into Lyndon again by accident. He tells Peggy that he is dying and wants to spend the rest of his time with her. Peggy wants nothing to do with him, but eventually goes to see him one last time to say goodbye. Not willing to take “no” for an answer, Lyndon pulls a gun out and threatens to kill himself. Peggy tries to wrestle the gun away from him, but in the struggle, he accidentally shoots himself and dies. Even though Peggy is innocent, she is sentenced to twenty years in prison. In the time that she’s gone, Monte is killed in World War I and Eleanor is told that her mother died in prison.
When Peggy gets out of prison, she finds out that she’s been left $5,000, so she gets herself made over and goes on a cruise. On the ship, she meets card sharp Bill Blaine (Ricardo Cortez) and plays poker with him one night. Luckily for her, her father had also been a big gambler so she saw through all his tricks and managed to win. The two of them fall in love and with their gambling skills combined, they become an unstoppable duo. When they return to New York, Bill gets them both jobs in a new gambling house, which happens to be in the house Peggy used to live in with Monte. Peggy earns quite a reputation for being an unbeatable blackjack dealer, but she momentarily loses her touch one night when her now grown up and married daughter Eleanor (Margaret Lindsay) comes to her table. When the night is over, Eleanor has gambled herself $15,000 into debt. Peggy wants the casino to let the debt go, but the owner insists and when Eleanor comes to see him the next day, she shoots him. Not willing to put her motherly instincts aside, she tries to cover for Eleanor and offers to take the fall for it.
The House on 56th Street was an okay movie. It’s enjoyable enough, but the story wasn’t really anything special. The basic premise has been done before in movies like Frisco Jenny and Madame X. But even if the story wasn’t particularly original, at least Kay Francis was pretty good in it. But ultimately, even Kay’s performance doesn’t really save the movie. It’s not a bad movie, but I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to see it.