Fred MacMurray

What’s on TCM: January 2016

Fred MacMurray Double Indemnity (1)

Happy new year! Ready to start a new year of movie watching? I know I am.

Coming up in January, TCM will be showing a couple of movies I’m very excited to see included, Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean on January 5th and Don’t Bet on Women on January 12th. Both of these are movies I don’t think enough people know about, but they’re both well worth seeing. If you’re a big fan of pre-codes, you definitely won’t want to miss Don’t Bet on Women. It’s a really delightful movie where Una Merkel completely steals the show.

January’s Star of the Month is the great Fred MacMurray and on Thursday nights, TCM will be doing a spotlight on the work of legendary production designer William Cameron Menzies, both of which should be some fantastic tributes.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at what the first month of 2016 has to offer.


The Gilded Lily 1935

The Gilded Lily (1935)

Marilyn David (Claudette Colbert) and Peter Dawes  (Fred MacMurray) are dear friends who get together every Thursday to sit together on a park bench and eat popcorn. Although Peter is very much in love with her, she only sees him as a friend and is convinced that someday she will fall madly in love with a person who is flat broke and doesn’t care about that. And as luck would have it, she happens to run into Charles (Ray Milland), who happens to fit that description — or so she thinks. As Marilyn and David spend time together and fall in love, Marilyn doesn’t realize that he is really the aristocratic Lord Charles Gray Granton from England, who is already engaged.

When Charles’ father finds out about Marilyn, he insists that Charles go back to England and break it off properly. Instead of telling the truth, he tells Marilyn that he’s leaving for two weeks for a job. Meanwhile, Peter, who works as a newspaper reporter, gets an assignment to go get a picture of Lord Charles Gray Granton before he leaves town. Marilyn doesn’t learn the truth until she sees his picture in the newspaper. When Peter sees how upset Marilyn is, he writes a phony article about how she turned down Charles. Once the article runs, Marilyn finds herself famous overnight and leaves Charles scandalized.

Things continue to spiral out of control when Peter gets the idea to extend Marilyn’s 15 minutes of fame by turning her into a nightclub star. She can’t sing, she can’t dance, but she manages to charm crowds enough to become a complete sensation. Her popularity grows enough for her to take her act over to England, where Charles is eager to see her again. But can they pick up where they left off with their relationship?

I recently got this movie on DVD as part of the Fred MacMurray and Claudette C0lbert Romantic Comedy DVD collection released by TCM. The DVD includes an introduction by Robert Osborne and he talked about how even though Colbert and MacMurray made several movies together, each of them is best remembered for their work with other co-stars. It’s really too bad they aren’t better remembered for their work together, because they are an absolutely delightful duo. I was surprised to learn this was only Fred MacMurray’s second major film role; he did a fantastic job of keeping up with Claudette Colbert, who was the more established movie star at the time. They were a very natural fit for each other. The Gilded Lily is a movie very ripe for rediscovery. It’s a pleasant little comedy with a lot of charm to it. The plot is silly, but could almost be seen as a satire of celebrity and stardom in the 21st century.

Too Many Husbands (1940)

Too Many Husbands PosterWhen Bill Cardew (Fred MacMurray) is lost at sea, he is presumed to be dead.  Bill’s wife Vicky (Jean Arthur) takes comfort in the arms of Bill’s friend and business partner Henry Lowndes (Melvyn Douglas) and they get married six months after Bill’s disappearance.  The only problem is that Bill isn’t dead — he’s been living on a deserted island and finally makes it home again about a year later.

Needless to say, Vicky and Henry are stunned to hear the news that Bill is still alive and Bill is equally shocked to hear Vicky and Bill are now married.  Now the big question is, which man does Vicky want to be married to?  Bill and Henry begin to vie for her affections, which Vicky adores.  Not only does she love all the attention she’s getting, she encourages them to keep it up.

One night, Bill and Henry discover that Vicky had told each of them she has decided she wants to be with him.  To teach her a lesson, they decide to go have fun together and leave her at home alone.  Only Vicky gets so worried about where they are, she calls the police and accidentally admits to having more than one husband.  The police show up to arrest Henry and Bill and the matter of whose Vicky’s husband is brought to the courts.

The judge rules Bill is still her husband, but Henry isn’t willing to give up the fight for Vicky’s affections.  After their day in court, Bill and Vicky go out to dinner, where they run into Henry.  Henry tries to dance with Vicky and he and Bill are competitive at first, but the three of them wind up dancing together.

Too Many Husbands starts out promisingly, but it doesn’t take long for the premise to become stale and the characters only become less likeable as the movie progresses.  In the end, Bill was the only character I still liked.  Vicky enjoyed pitting Bill and Henry against each other far too much for me to have any sympathy for her or to find her antics funny. And the fact that Henry still wanted to pursue Vicky after the court ruling just left me saying, “No, really, you need to give it up now.”  With its great cast, I had somewhat high hopes for Too Many Husbands, but it left me unsatisfied.  But at least Jean Arthur got to wear some pretty marvelous costumes in it so those were nice to look at.

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:


The Lady is Willing (1942)

It’s not unusual for Liza Madden (Marlene Dietrich) to go out shopping and come back with fancy new dresses, hats, or jewelry.  After all, she’s a glamorous actress and she’s got an image to maintain.  Imagine her assistant Buddy’s (Aline MacMahon) surprise when Liza goes out shopping one day and comes back with a baby.  She had found an abandoned baby while she was out and decided on a whim that she wanted to adopt it.  The first thing she does is find out who the best pediatrician in town is and has him come over to check the baby over.  Dr. Corey McBain (Fred MacMurray) comes right over and even though the baby is fine, the doctor corrects her belief that she’s got a baby girl.  She names the baby Corey and is determined to be the best mother she can be.  She buys silk pajamas for him and even has the bar removed from her apartment so it won’t be a bad influence on him.

But however much Liza wants to keep Corey, she has to face the fact that in 1942, nobody was going to let an unmarried woman with lots of debt adopt a baby.  Since she figures it would be easier to find a husband than it would be to get her finances in order, she starts looking for someone willing to marry for platonic reasons.  A solution comes one night when little Corey gets a rash from his silk pajamas and she calls Dr. McBain.  At first, he’s unamused by Liza’s cluelessness about how to care for a baby, but can’t help but be touched by how much she clearly loves that baby.  Liza starts talking to Dr. McBain and finds out that he’d rather be in the research side of medicine, but doesn’t have the money to do it.  She talks him into marrying her so she can adopt Corey and she can let him use part of her apartment to do his research in.

Even though this was intended to be a marriage of convenience, deeper feelings quickly develop and Liza gets jealous when she and Dr. McBain run into his first wife Frances (Arline Judge) and Dr. McBain gets jealous of the leading man in Liza’s show.  All seems to be going well in their marriage, though, and Dr. McBain comes to the rescue one night when two people and their lawyer show up claiming to be Corey’s parents.  They either wanted the baby or $25,000, but they didn’t count on trying to extort money from someone who could easily do a blood test to disprove parentage on the spot.  They go out the next night to celebrate their victory over scammers, but also to celebrate Dr. McBain being granted a $5,000 research grant.  The two of them have a wonderful night and a lot of true feelings are revealed.

But by the next morning, word of Dr. McBain’s grant has hit the newspapers and his ex-wife Frances shows up wanting a piece of it.  Liza is furious when she goes to bring him breakfast and finds Frances in their bedroom.  She locks Dr. McBain in his part of the apartment while she cancels her show and gets ready to take it to Boston immediately.  She won’t even let him come examine Corey when he isn’t feeling well.  Liza has another doctor examine Corey and is told that he only has a cold, so she goes on ahead with her plan to go to Boston.  But once she gets there, it becomes clear that Corey actually is very ill and needs surgery.  The only person she trusts to do the operation is Dr. McBain, so she flies him out to Boston.  When he arrives, she begs for forgiveness and even though he has reservations about operating on Corey, Liza promises to love him no matter what.  Dr. McBain gets to work on Corey and Liza anxiously awaits the results.  When it’s time for Liza to get to the theater for her show, Dr. McBain encourages her to go ahead and do her show.  She can barely keep her mind on the show, but by the time the show is over, Dr. McBain is waiting for her with good news about Corey.

It seems like people either like The Lady is Willing or hate it and I happen to be in the camp that likes it.  This is a rather unusual movie for Marlene Dietrich since she didn’t really do much comedy during her career.  Marlene Dietrich was never going to be another Carole Lombard or Myrna Loy, but The Lady is Willing happens to be the right type of comedy for her style.  I got a kick out of her clueless but well-intended character and it’s fun to see her play with the baby and poke a little fun at her glamorous image.  Watching Fred MacMurray try to see around Dietrich’s extravagant hats definitely made me smile.  Fred MacMurray was pretty charming as well, but I wasn’t feeling much chemistry between him and Dietrich.  I thought the baby and Aline MacMahon had better chemistry with Dietrich than Fred did.  As for the story, it’s pretty fluffy and nonsensical, but at least it’s fun nonsense.  I got a lot of laughs out of it and it’s a refreshing change of pace from the usual Marlene Dietrich fare.

Hands Across the Table (1935)

Like so many other women, Regi Allen (Carole Lombard) longs for a way out of her mundane life.  She’s tired of having to count her pennies, fighting the crowds on the subway, and she’s tired of having to do nails for a living.  Of course, the easiest way out of that life would be to marry a rich man and she’s determined to do just that.  One day, she’s called up to give Allen Macklwyn (Ralph Bellamy) a manicure and he instantly adores her.  Allen is quite wealthy, he had formerly been a pilot but was left disabled after a flying accident.  He falls in love with her, makes appointments with her constantly, and they become very good friends, but he never lets her know that he loves her.

As Regi is leaving her first appointment with Allen, she bumps into Theodore Drew, III (Fred MacMurray) as he’s playing hopscotch in the hallway.  She doesn’t know who he is, but she thinks he’s a bit screwy and goes on about her day.  Later, Ted makes an appointment to get a manicure from Regi.  The salon receptionist tells Regi that Ted is from a wealthy family, so when Ted comes to her table and she sees the odd guy from earlier, she tries to turn him away.  But when she realizes her mistake, she’s so flustered that she can barely do his nails.  Despite the lousy manicure, Ted asks Regi out to dinner and of course, she accepts.  The two of them have a swell time on their date, especially Ted who has a little too much to drink.  But after a few drinks, he admits that he’s engaged to be married soon.

When Ted passes out in the cab after dinner, Regi lets him sleep on her couch.  She only expects him to stay for the night, but he ends up staying longer when he misses his ship to Bermuda and is stuck in New York with no money and no place to stay.  His family lost all their money in the big stock market crash and his trip to Bermuda was paid for by his future father-in-law.  Of course, the two of them fall in love in spite of one thing: the fact that they both want to marry for money.  Regi tries to not get too involved because she’s convinced that Ted could never be happy with her.  But when Ted’s fiancée Vivian begins to suspect that Ted isn’t really in Bermuda, she does some detective work and finds out that he’s in New York and that he’s been seen with a manicurist.  Vivian books a manicure with Regi and confronts her about what’s been going on.  Vivian doesn’t want to give Ted up, but Ted is willing to let Vivian go and he begs her to end their engagement.  He wants to marry Regi and he’ll do anything to make it happen, including the one thing he never thought he would do: get a job.

Hands Across the Table is one of my favorite under-appreciated gems and my personal favorite Carole Lombard movie.  It may be just a lighthearted romantic comedy, it’s not great cinema, but it is immensely charming.  I loved Carole and Fred together.  When I saw this movie for the first time, I thought Regi and Ted seemed like a couple I’d want to hang out with and now I know why.  Carole and Fred were good friends off-screen and that really came through on-screen, they must have been a blast to be around.  Of course, Carole Lombard was a natural with comedy, but the same couldn’t be said for Fred MacMurray.  Hands Across the Table is one of Fred’s earliest movies and he wasn’t exactly well versed in comedy yet.  Carole and director Mitchell Leisen had to work hard to get his silly performance just right.  But all their hard work paid off because he was great as that kind of hapless but lovable character.  Why Hands Across the Table doesn’t get more love is a mystery to me.

My Top 100, 70-61

Welcome to week four of my 100 favorite movies!  This week is going to be my most 1970s centric bunch of movies of this countdown.  I’ve got two of the biggest hits of the 70’s along with one set in the 70’s.  Appropriately, this week’s list starts with number 70…


TCM Day in Review: 2/9/10

When I started this blog, I had the intention of writing about movies one at a time.  But with 31 Days of Oscar going on, there are several days where I can see a bunch of fantastic movies in one day.  Yesterday was certainly one of those days: Alice Adams, Ninotchka, Stalag 17, and Network.  When I was trying to think of which of those movies I wanted to write about today, I figured that maybe I’d try something different and try writing several short reviews instead of one long review.