Robert Stack

A Date With Judy (1948)

A Date With Judy PosterThe big school dance is coming up and Judy Foster (Jane Powell) is planning on attending with her boyfriend Oogie Pringle (Scotty Beckett).  Oogie is also the brother of her best friend Carol (Elizabeth Taylor).  But right before the big dance, Oogie decides he can’t take Judy, so the owner of the local soda shop gets his nephew Stephen Andrews (Robert Stack) to take Judy instead.  Judy is immediately smitten with Stephen and so is every other girl at the dance, including Carol.  Oogie is very jealous, but Judy swears she won’t take Oogie back.

Meanwhile, Judy’s parents’ anniversary is coming up.  To surprise his wife, Judy’s father Melvin (Wallace Beery) decides to learn how to rumba so he can surprise his wife when they go out to celebrate their anniversary.  He takes lessons from Rosita Cochellas (Carmen Miranda), girlfriend of bandleader Xavier Cugat (himself).  Melvin wants to keep this a secret, so he has Rosita give him lessons in his office, but when Judy pays an unexpected visit to his office, she gets the wrong idea when she sees Rosita’s purse there.

Oogie wants to get back together with Judy and Carol does her best to help, but Judy wants to continue seeing Stephen.  Judy even wants to marry Stephen.  But Stephen is more interested in Carol, or at least he is until he realizes just how snobbish Carol can be.  And even if Judy wanted to get back together with Oogie, she’s more concerned with trying to save her parents’ marriage.  On the night of the anniversary celebration, Judy and Carol confront Rosita and realize what a mistake they’ve made.  Not only is Judy’s parents’ marriage safe, but by the end of the night, Judy and Oogie get back together and Stephen comes around to Carol again.

A Date With Judy is nothing exceptional, but it’s likeable enough.  My biggest complaint about it is that for the type of movie it is, a light and fluffy bit of nonsense entertainment, it felt overly long.  It’s a nearly two-hour long movie that felt like it should have been more like 90 minutes.

However, I was very pleasantly surprised by Wallace Beery’s performance in it.  When I think of Wallace Beery, I think of him playing loutish characters in things like Grand Hotel and Dinner at Eight and from what I’ve heard, he was a lout off-screen as well.  But in A Date With Judy, he actually brought a lot of warmth and charm to his character, which was a very refreshing change of pace.  The biggest highlight of A Date With Judy is getting to see Beery as Melvin trying to learn how to rumba.

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To Be or Not to Be (1942)

In 1939 Poland, a theater troupe is spending its days rehearsing a new play called Gestapo and performing Hamlet by night.  Part of the troupe is husband and wife Joseph and Maria Tura (Jack Benny and Carole Lombard).  Maria has quite an admirer in Lieutenant Stanislav Sobinski (Robert Stack), who repeatedly sends her flowers before asking to meet her.  Maria agrees to meet him and tells him to come see her when Joseph begins the “To be or not to be” speech.  The two are attracted to each other and continue to meet up.  However, just as Maria was trying to convince him that she can’t run off and live on a farm with him, they get word that Germany has invaded Poland.  Sobinski has to go fight with the Air Force while the actors run for cover.  While Sobinski is in England, he and some fellow pilots are cavorting with Professor Siletsky, whom they believe is on their side.  When Siletsky mentions he will be going back to Poland soon, the pilots gladly hand over addresses of their loved ones so he can deliver messages for them.  Sobinski asks Siletsky to give a message to Maria, but Sobinski quickly realized Siletsky wasn’t who he says he is when he says he doesn’t know who Maria Tura is.  Maria was so famous in Poland that there was no way someone from Poland could possibly not know who she is.

Realizing they had just given the Nazis the names and addresses of important people in the Polish resistance, Sobinski is sent to Warsaw to warn people about Siletsky.  He gives Maria a message to pass on to the Polish resistance, and just as she returns from delivering the message, she is stopped by some Nazis.  They bring her to Siletsky, who tries to convince her to become a Nazi spy.  When she finally does get home, she finds her husband very confused about what is going on and why Sobinski is in their apartment.  But ultimately, the three of them decide the best thing to do is to kill Siletsky.  So Maria goes back to see Siletsky and pretends to be on their side, while Joseph gets the other actors to put on their costumes from Gestapo.  One of the actors in costume goes to see Siletsky and tells him that he is wanted at Gestapo headquarters.  Little does he know that Gestapo headquarters are really the theater that has been decorated with props from the play.

Eventually, Siletsky realizes Joseph is an actor and pulls a gun on him.  Joseph tries to escape, Siletsky chases after him, and Siletsky is shot and killed on the stage of the theater.  Joseph then disguises himself as Siletsky so he can get into his hotel room and destroy the incriminating information.  But at the hotel, his disguise really does fool a Nazi officer, who brings him to meet some real Nazi officials.  The next day, Siletsky’s body is found and, not knowing that the Nazis know that Siletsky is dead, he poses as Siletsky again to arrange another meeting.  The Nazis now know something is going on, and although Joseph manages to get out of the situation, they know it’s only a matter of time before the Nazis figure them out.  So they decide to make one last bold attempt to get out of the country — on Hitler’s own plane.

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What’s on TCM: August 2010

It’s August, and that can only mean one thing: Summer Under the Stars!  Like 31 Days of Oscar, Summer Under the Stars never disappoints and I’m definitely excited for this year’s schedule.  There are plenty of days dedicated to showcasing some SUTS mainstays like Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Henry Fonda.  But this year they’re really mixing things up and spending nearly half the month focusing on people who have never been part of SUTS before, including John Gilbert, Ethel Barrymore, and Gene Tierney.  Not only are there lots of stars who are new to SUTS, there are also tons of movies being premiered this month.  I counted a grand total of 54 TCM premieres in August, 19 of which are on Thelma Todd day alone.

Here is a complete list of the stars featured this month.  To get the complete schedule, you can download a copy here.

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