Merle Oberon

What’s on TCM: March 2016

Merle Oberon

Happy March, everyone! Looking at TCM’s schedule for the month, there’s a whole lot to be excited about this month. First of all, my favorite thing going on this month is the spotlight on movies that were condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency coming up every Thursday night. It’s no secret that I love the boundary-pushing pre-code era and although this spotlight highlights movies from other eras, it’s still definitely a series that’s right up my alley.

Merle Oberon is March’s Star of the Month and her work will be showcased every Friday night this month. There’s also a series on movies about art and artists every Monday night, a special two-night Jerry Lewis celebration in honor of his 90th birthday, and a great Jean Harlow birthday tribute to look forward to. Now, on to the full schedule!


The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934)

The Scarlet Pimpernel 1934It’s the middle of the French Revolution and many French aristocrats are meeting their demise at the guillotine. But much to the dismay to the people of France, many of the aristocrats are being rescued from facing the guillotine with help from the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel and his band of 19 men. French leader Robespierre (Ernest Milton) is eager to put a stop to this and orders Chauvelin (Raymond Massey) to find out who the Scarlet Pimpernel is and arrest him.

The elusive Scarlet Pimpernel is none other than Sir Percy Blakeney (Leslie Howard), who is so good about keeping his identity as the Scarlet Pimpernel a secret, not even his wife Marguerite (Merle Oberon) knows the truth. He doesn’t want her to know, either, because she denounced one of the executed aristocrats, something he doesn’t agree with. Marguerite’s brother is also part of the Scarlet Pimpernel’s band of men and when Chauvelin finds this out, he forces her to help him find the Scarlet Pimpernel.

When Chauvelin gets word that the Scarlet Pimpernel will be at a ball, he makes a point to be there. During the party, Chauvelin finds out the Scarlet Pimpernel will be in the library at midnight. When he goes to wait for him, he only finds Percy sound asleep on a couch. After dozing off himself, Chauvelin wakes up to find he’s been bested by the Pimpernel. But when Marguerite tells Percy about her brother being arrested and explains her reasons for denouncing the aristocrat, Percy has to do anything he can to save her brother. But when Marguerite realizes her husband is the Pimpernel, she has to try to save Percy.

The Scarlet Pimpernel isn’t one of my absolute favorite movies, but it was well produced, well written, and very enjoyable. This is Leslie Howard’s signature film role with very good reason. He had the perfect demeanor for the role and does a fantastic job delivering his lines. Not to mention that seeing him disguised as an old woman is truly something to behold. Raymond Massey was a perfect fit as the villain Chauvelin. On the whole, I really liked The Scarlet Pimpernel a lot more than I expected to as, I just said in my review of The Lion in Winter, historical sagas aren’t always my kind of thing. But this is so smartly written, very witty, it still feels very fresh even over 80 years later. It’s an absolute pleasure to watch and I’d gladly watch it again someday.

Lydia (1941)

Lydia PosterAfter dedicating her new home for blind children, Lydia MacMillan (Merle Oberon) gets a surprise visit from her former lover Michael Fitzpatrick (Joseph Cotten).  Lydia is an elderly philanthropist who, despite having some grand romances in her lifetime, never married and had children of her own. Instead, she dedicated her life to helping blind children. The reunion soon grows to include her other past loves, Bob Willard (George Reeves) and Frank Andre (Hans Jaray). She hasn’t seen any of them in years and they naturally start reminiscing about their times together.

Michael first met Lydia when she was a young girl living with her wealthy grandmother Sarah (Edna May Oliver). His father was the family’s butler at the time and when Michael, then a recent med school graduate, comes to visit, Sarah gives him a job as the family physician. Lydia likes Michael and gets him to escort her to her first ever formal ball. However, it’s immediately clear to Michael that she really loves football player Bob Willard (George Reeves). Sarah is extremely unimpressed with Bob, but Lydia nearly elopes with him.

After her failed relationship with Bob, Michael heads off to war and Lydia has a chance encounter with a blind child. Seeing the deplorable conditions the child lived in, she was inspired to start a school for blind children. The school is her true passion in life and she’s willing to sacrifice love for it if she has to. However, she does fall in love with Frank, a blind pianist who comes to teach at the school. The only man she comes close to marrying is Richard Mason (Alan Marshal), who she was met to marry one New Year’s Eve, but Lydia is left standing at the altar.

The heartbreak of being left by Frank drives Lydia to accept a proposal from Michael, but she calls it off after the death of her grandmother, preferring to focus on helping blind children instead. All the reminiscing makes Lydia realize that she meant something different to each of the men in her life.

When I decided to write about Lydia today, I didn’t have terribly high expectations for it based on the 6.6 stars it currently has on IMDB. However, I was pleasantly surprised. A little slowly paced, but there were moments that I loved. The movie’s finest moment is when Lydia is reminiscing about walking into her first formal ball and how breathtaking it all was for her. It’s a wonderfully dreamlike sequence that is made even greater when it’s juxtaposed against Michael’s less-rose tinted recollections of the same ball. The story may not be particularly unique, but I liked Merle Oberon and Joseph Cotten enough for it to be worth watching  just for them.

What’s on TCM: November 2012

Happy November!  Even though this isn’t one of my favorite months on TCM, it’s still a pretty busy month.  First of all, Constance Bennett is the Star of the Month, which I’m pretty happy to see.  Her movies will be shown every Tuesday night in November.

If you’re a fan of seeing how films compare to the novels they were based on, you are going to love this month.  Every Monday and Wednesday night will be full of movies based on books and the adaptations will continue until prime time on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I love the idea of this series, but I would have liked to have seen it done on Mondays and Thursdays instead, just because it’s kind of an avalanche of book adaptations during the first part of the week.