Kay Francis

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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What’s on TCM: January 2014

Joan CrawfordHappy 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…

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Mandalay (1934)

Mandalay 1934 PosterWhen 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

Jewel Robbery (1932)

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.

Raffles (1930)

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.

One Way Passage (1932)

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.

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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