Lauren Bacall

What’s on TCM: September 2014

Melvyn Douglas Greta Garbo Ninotchka

Happy September, everyone! Summer Under the Stars is always a tough act to follow, but TCM does an awesome job of doing so. There are two huge things that I am very excited for. The first of which is Melvyn Douglas as Star of the Month. I have always loved Melvyn Douglas and he never seems to quite get as much credit as he deserves. There’s also a ton of his movies I’ve never seen, so I’m really happy to have the chance to see more of his work.

The second thing I am so, so excited to see is that every Friday this month will be a 24-hour marathon of pre-code movies! That’s right, 24 glorious hours of wild, fast-paced, innuendo-laden movies! Friday Night Spotlight isn’t just for prime time this month! With my annual 30 Days of Pre-Codes event, it’s no secret that I adore the pre-code era. If you have yet to explore much of this wild and fascinating era of film making, this is a golden opportunity because you’ll have the chance to see so many of the pre-code essentials (Baby Face, Three on a Match, Red Headed Woman, Design for Living, just to name a few) as well as many other great ones. Don’t miss The Story of Temple Drake on September 12 at 2:30 AM or Call Her Savage September 26 at 2:15 AM. They’re on late at night so it might be easy to overlook those, but they’re a couple of my favorite pre-codes and I don’t see them on TCM very often. If you only know Clara Bow as a silent film star, you’re going to be in for a real treat with Call Her Savage. 

Now, onto the rest of the schedule…

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Harper (1966)

Harper 1966When Elaine Sampson’s (Lauren Bacall) wealthy disappears, she calls detective Lew Harper (Paul Newman) to track him down. Elaine doesn’t care if her husband is dead or alive, but she knows he’s likely drunk and with another woman and she just wants to find out where he is before he gets too generous in his drunken state and gives away something valuable yet again. He starts by talking to Sampson’s daughter Miranda (Pamela Triffin) and personal pilot Allan Taggert (Robert Wagner). After finding out Sampson had been keeping a bungalow in Los Angeles, Harper takes a trip there to investigate and finds a picture of washed-up starlet Fay Eastabrook (Shelley Winters). Harper spends an evening with Fay, and when he brings her home very drunk, he answers a mysterious phone call from a woman thinking she was talking to Fay’s husband.  The woman calling says she saw Fay out with a strange man that night and that she ought to get rid of before “the truck comes through.” From there, he keeps following lead after lead until he finds himself tied up in a conspiracy involving Taggert, Fay, Troy, drug-addicted singer Betty Fraley (Julie Harris), a cult leader, and that mysterious truck.

This movie is just plain awesome. I absolutely loved Paul Newman in this role. Lauren Bacall was a flawless choice to play the jaded, bitter wife. Pamela Triffin was so campy and over the top, but when she was on screen with Lauren Bacall, their two attitudes were so big, that it was just too much and I mean that the best possible way. If drag queens are not already re-enacting that scene in their acts, they are missing a golden opportunity. But fun, campy moments aside, Harper is a quality mystery.  The story’s got enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes the whole time and there’s a great twist at the end. From start to finish, it’s nothing but good, quality entertainment.

What’s on TCM: March 2014

Mary Astor Humprhey Bogart Maltese FalconHappy March!  31 Days of Oscar may be coming to an end, but there are still plenty of other great things to look forward to in the upcoming month.  What I’m most excited to see returning to TCM is Carson on TCM!  You may remember that back in July 2013, TCM aired a number of classic Johnny Carson Tonight Show interviews with stars such as Doris Day, Kirk Douglas, George Burns, and Bette Davis.  This time around, we have interviews with Gene Kelly, Lauren Bacall, Bob Hope, Jack Lemmon, and Gregory Peck (just to name a few) to look forward to.  I absolutely loved watching the interviews back in July, so I’m very excited to see more.

After taking a break last month for 31 Days of Oscar, Friday Night Spotlight returns with a series about Food in the Movies selected by Anthony Bourdain.

March’s Star of the Month will be the one and only Mary Astor.  A 24 hour marathon of her films will start very Wednesday night this month and continue into the following Thursday

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Fashion in Film: Berets

If you’re like me, you often find yourself watching films and seeing tons of fashion styles you would love to wear in real life.  I watch movies from so many decades and from so many different genres, if I actually did copy all the styles I like, I’d have one diverse wardrobe.  But if there’s one accessory you could easily get a lot of mileage out of, it’s a beret.  Berets have been a popular hat style for decades, so if you want to go for a Norma Shearer inspired look one day and a Faye Dunaway inspired look the next, a beret could easily work for both styles.

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What’s on TCM: September 2012

Happy September, everyone!  I hope you all enjoyed this year’s edition of Summer Under the Stars.  One good thing may be coming to an end, but fear not, there are some very, very cool things to look forward to in September.

Silent film fans, rejoice!  Every Thursday night this month, TCM will be spotlighting movies produced at Mack Sennett studios, which means there will be tons of silent films being played during prime time.  83 short films will be included in this tribute, the vast majority of which have never been shown in TCM before, and will feature stars  such as Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Fatty Arbuckle, and Gloria Swanson.  I, for one, am very excited for this!

Lauren Bacall is the Star of the Month and every Wednesday night in September will be full of her movies.  September 3rd will be TCM’s annual tribute to the Telluride Film Festival

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What’s on TCM: September 2011

I hope everyone enjoyed Summer Under the Stars this year!  September is looking like it’s going to be a much quieter month, but there is still plenty to look forward to.  Most noteworthy, this month marks the TCM premiere of a couple long-awaited movies, The Constant Nymph and The Story of Temple Drake.  Kirk Douglas is September’s star of the month and there are some truly stellar nights of his movies to look forward to.  Laurel and Hardy fans will be happy to hear that the duo will be making a few appearances this month.  Thursday nights will be dedicated to celebrating fifty years of Merchant Ivory productions, and those nights tend to have too many modern movies for my liking.  But there are also TCM’s annual tributes to the Telluride Film Festival and the Library of Congress Film Archive, both of which have some pretty excellent stuff to look forward to.

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Young Man With a Horn (1950)

Life hasn’t been easy for Rick Martin (Kirk Douglas).  His parents were killed when he was young, leaving his sister to care for him.  He didn’t have any friends, he wasn’t a good student, but one night he finds himself at a church and he discovers that he does have a passion for music.  He starts off by teaching himself how to play the piano and eventually sets his sights on learning the trumpet.  To earn the money to buy his own trumpet, he gets a job in a bowling alley and one night at work, he hears some great jazz music coming from a nearby club.  When Rick heads over to the club, he meets trumpeter Art Hazzard (Juano Hernandez) and Art takes Rick under his wing and becomes like a father to Rick.

Under Art’s tutelage, Rick becomes a phenomenal trumpet player as he grows up.  Eventually he lands a gig playing in a band, but he doesn’t last long there because the band leader doesn’t appreciate Rick’s love of impromptu solos.  But on the plus side, he does get to meet the band’s singer, Jo Jordan (Doris Day), and the two of them start a relationship.  Jo even helps Rick get a new job after he gets kicked out of the band.  All is going well for Rick and Jo until one night when Jo brings her friend Amy (Lauren Bacall) along to the club.  Rick is immediately drawn to how sophisticated and intelligent Amy is.  Even though Amy resists Rick’s advances and is hesitant about getting into a relationship with him, the two of them get married very quickly.

However, their marriage is anything but blissful.  They don’t spend much time together and when they do see each other, they fight.  The rough marriage takes its toll on Rick and he starts drinking more and more.  Even Art Hazzard can’t get him out of his miserable state of mind.  However, things quickly go from bad to worse when Art is killed in a tragic accident and then Rick decides he wants a divorce.  Rick falls into a deeper depression and his drinking gets even more out of control, costing him jobs and killing his love of music.  But luckily for Rick, getting thrown in a hospital turns out to be the best thing to happen to him because Jo arrives and helps him get a new lease on life.

Young Man With a Horn is one of my favorite types of movies — an underrated gem.  I don’t hear this one get talked about very often, but I really enjoyed it.  I loved Kirk Douglas in it, but Lauren Bacall and Doris Day were also great in it.  Hoagy Carmichael played “Smoke” Willoughby, Rick’s best friend, and I thought he made a great sidekick to Kirk Douglas.  But even with big names like Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, and Doris Day in the cast, I’d say the real star of the movie is the music.  Legendary bandleader Harry James is the one responsible for all of Kirk Douglas’ trumpet playing and even if I hadn’t liked the movie, I would have at least enjoyed listening to the music.

What makes this film worthy of a queer film blogathon is the fact that Lauren Bacall’s character is a lesbian.  Since this was made in 1950 with the production codes in full effect, they had to subtly hint at that fact.  So subtly in fact that in Lauren’s TCM Private Screenings interview, she said she was so naive at the time that she didn’t even realize her character left her husband for another woman.  When Jo tries to warn Rick about getting involved with Amy, she couldn’t come right out and say, “She prefers women.”  Instead, she says that Amy’s a “strange girl,” “mixed up inside,” and that he’s never known a girl “like her” before.  Early in their relationship, Amy tries telling Rick that she’s incapable of falling in love and we see her turn down his physical advances.  When they end their marriage, she tells him she’s tired of him trying to touch her all the time.  She also tells Rick that she agreed to marry him because basically, she thought she shouldn’t knock it until she tried it and that she thought she’d eventually grow to like it.  However, in Amy’s final scene, there’s a knowing look between Amy and her new girlfriend that makes it pretty clear it’s not necessarily marriage she didn’t like, she just didn’t like being married to a man. (To see some of Lauren’s scenes, click here.)

For more films with LGBT chracters, actors, or are about LGBT issues, visit Garbo Laughs to read the other blogathon contributions.