Ava Gardner

East Side, West Side (1949)

Brandon (James Mason) and Jessie Bourne (Barbara Stanwyck) are a very happily married couple and part of Manhattan’s elite.  Things weren’t always so happy for them, though.  Brandon has a history of infidelity, but Jessie is the only woman he loves and he’s determined to leave the past behind.  All is going well for them until one night, he visits a nightclub and finds out Isabel Lorrison (Ava Gardner), his former girlfriend, is back in town.  She wants to pick things up with him again and Brandon fights hard to resist her advances.

While at the club, Brandon ends up getting into a fight with Isabel’s date for the night.  Rosa Senta (Cyd Charisse) witnesses the fight and tries to help Brandon since she respects Jessie and doesn’t want to see the incident splashed across the society page.  Sure enough, though, the story makes the paper and some of Jessie’s friends are worried about what Isabel’s return could mean for their marriage.  Jessie goes to meet Rosa to thank her for helping Brandon and gives her a ride to the airport so she can pick up her boyfriend Mark Dwyer (Van Heflin).

It just so happens that Mark is the guest of honor at a party being thrown by some of Jessie and Brandon’s friends.  But just before the party, Isabel convinces Brandon to come see her at her apartment.  Although he has every intention of ending things with her once and for all, he ends up staying so long that Jessie has to go to the party alone.  But while at the party, she gets to know Mark some more and he begins to fall in love with her.

The next day, Jessie gets a call from Isabel and goes to her apartment to confront her.  Isabel swears up and down that she’s the one he really wants, and Jessie begins to worry she might be right, but then she gets a call from Brandon telling her that Isabel has been murdered.  Naturally, Brandon gets brought in for questioning, and even though he’s cleared in the matter, the incident forces Jessie to make up her mind whether or not she wants to stay with Brandon.

I was surprised that East Side, West Side got pretty mediocre reviews on my cable guide and the TCM website, because I really enjoyed it.  If it had been made with a lesser cast, I don’t think I would have been nearly as good, but everybody was completely on point here it absolutely made the movie.  I loved Barbara Stanwyck and Van Heflin together.  Ava Gardner was one deliciously conniving other woman; she truly revels in making you hate Isabel.  Even Cyd Charisse was good, which might be surprising to a lot of people since this isn’t a musical.

My only complaint was that I was getting bored during the scenes where Van Heflin puts on his detective hat to figure out who killed Isabel.  Those scenes didn’t seem to fit in very well with the rest of the movie.  It was almost like they came out of some other movie.  First it was a drama about marriage, then all of a sudden it turned into a murder mystery, and then it went right back to being a drama again.

But that issue aside, I was very surprised by just how good East Side, West Side was.  Definitely keep an eye out for this one, I don’t think it really gets the credit it deserves.

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The Hucksters (1947)

After coming home from World War II, Vic Norman (Clark Gable) wants to get back into the advertising business.  When he lands an interview with Mr. Kimberly (Adolphe Menjou) at Kimberly Advertising Agency, their meeting is interrupted by Evan Llewellyn Evans (Sidney Greenstreet), the very demanding head of Beautee Soap, their biggest client.  Evans wants them to get socialite Kay Dorrance (Deborah Kerr) for a new ad campaign and Vic volunteers to talk to her into it.  When he arrives at her apartment, the two of them hit it off and he has no problem getting her to agree.  On the day of the photo shoot, Kay is unhappy with the negligee she is asked to wear and Vic stands up for her and gets them to photograph her with her children wearing a respectable evening gown. Evans isn’t happy when he finds out Vic disregarded their idea, but when he hears a radio spot produced by Vic, he’s won over.

Vic continues to see Kay and he wants to take her to The Blue Penguin Inn, a place in Connecticut he liked to visit before going to fight in the war.  But when he gets there, he finds out the place has gone downhill while he was away.  When Kay arrives, she doesn’t see Vic, but she finds out they would be staying in adjoining rooms and gets the wrong idea and leaves.  Vic is heartbroken, but his weekend is soon interrupted when Evans wants to have a Sunday meeting.  He wants Beautee Soap to have a radio show starring comedian Buddy Hare (Keenan Wynn), so he sends Vic out on the next train to Hollywood to sign a deal with him and get started working on the show.

On the train, Vic runs into his former girlfriend Jean Ogilvie (Ava Gardner).  It’s a good thing they’re still friendly with each other, because Jean is able to help Vic talk to Buddy’s agent David Lash (Edward Arnold) and he gets Buddy to do the show for a good price.  While working on the show in Hollywood, Vic and Jean rekindle their relationship, but Jean can see that Vic still loves Kay.  By then, Kay has come around and Vic finds her waiting for him one night.  Vic proposes and he becomes focused on being the best provider he can be.

Vic is determined to be the best provider he can be for Kay and her children, so when it turns out there’s a problem with Buddy’s contract, he resorts to doing some pretty awful things to get Lash to fix it.  But Vic honestly likes Lash and immediately feels awful about it.  He hates what the advertising business has done to him and decides to tell Evans off and leave while he still has his dignity.

The Hucksters has a lot going for it, but it could have been a stronger movie overall.  Clark Gable was very good in it and Deborah Kerr wasn’t bad, either.  This was Kerr’s first American film, so it’s too bad she didn’t really have very much to do in it.  Even though I liked them both separately, I wasn’t really sold on Gable and Kerr together.  I thought he had much more chemistry with Ava Gardner.  The supporting cast was excellent, particularly Sidney Greenstreet (who was so perfect for that role), Adolphe Menjou, and Keenan Wynn.

The Hucksters is just under two hours long, but I felt like it could have been a little bit shorter.  It also seemed like it should have packed more of a punch, but it didn’t quite get there.  The Hucksters was based on a 1946 novel by Frederic Wakeman, which from what I’ve heard, was pretty scandalous.  Clark Gable himself called the book filthy, so I can imagine the movie was a pretty heavily sanitized adaptation.  Maybe the novel has more of the impact I felt like the movie should have had.

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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What’s on TCM: November 2010

Site news time!  As you may or may not know, November is NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month.  And because I love a challenge, I’ve decided to take a shot at participating.  That’s right, I’m going to try to update the blog every single day in November!   To make things a little more interesting, I’ve given myself a theme to work with: pre-codes.  30 days, 30 pre-code classics!  Here’s hoping I can pull it off!  Now, onto the TCM schedule…


Wow!  This could quite possibly be one of my favorite months ever on TCM!  Fans of silent films, rejoice!  This month, TCM is starting its documentary series Moguls and Movie Stars.  A new episode premieres every Monday at 8:00 PM and is followed by a night of movies related to that night’s episode.  Every Wednesday night is also devoted to Moguls and Movie Stars with more related movies and an encore of that week’s episode.  This is particularly wonderful news for fans of silents because a few episodes of Moguls and Movie Stars are dedicated to the silent era, so they’ll be airing movies from people like Mary Pickford (who I always thought has been very underrepresented on TCM), Clara Bow, Rudolph Valentino, Georges Melies, and D.W. Griffith.  In addition to that, Ava Gardner is the star of the month!  I dig Ava Gardner, so I’m going to be watching a whole lot of TCM this month.

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