This is Shelly’s current favorite classic holiday movie. It begins just before Christmas and runs New Years, and that totally counts! It’s sweet, it’s a romance and it’s well-acted. It stars Ginger Rogers, Joseph Cotten and a teenaged and bratty Shirley Temple.
Who among the female stars of the 30s and 40s retains more ID today than Bette Davis? She was the queen of the Warner lot when she wasn’t fighting with her bosses, and she played her share of scenery-chewing roles as both a young woman and an older one. But All This and Heaven Too is not one of these. The Davis we meet here is deep in melodrama, certainly, but her performance is controlled and quiet. She loves Charles Boyer, and he loves her, but nothing’s going right for them. Behold, LTS does romance!
We return to film noir, with a movie that could be called, Edmond O’Brien’s really, really bad day. A man learns he’s going to die, and sets out to find out who’s killing him and why. It’s directed by Rudolf Maté, and if you are a fan of noir lighting, camera angles and scenes of LA and San Francisco from the post-war period, you will find them here.
What happens when an unlikely group of strangers shares an ocean voyage? If it’s the middle of WWII and Alfred Hitchcock is directing, don’t expect a frothy comedy, dah-ling. Do expect raconteur and occasional film actress Tallulah Bankhead, with John Hodiak, Walter Slezak, William Bendix and Hume Cronyn. They’re all stuck on a lifeboat after their merchant ship is torpedoed.
It’s 1830s Edinburgh, home of some of Europe’s finest medical schools — but where are they getting the cadavers to hone their students’ knowledge of anatomy? Well, provided you’ve got ready cash on hand, and you don’t ask too many questions… Horror auteur Val Lewton and still-rookie director Robert Wise adapt Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story with typically eerie elegance — but you’ll come away remembering Boris Karloff, in maybe the greatest performance of his career, as a deceptively cheerful cabman with a grisly side hustle. A much-diminished Bela Lugosi’s also in it, barely — but the key scene he shares with Karloff will stick with you long after you’ve seen this relatively little-known and underrated classic.
Ride with Barbara Stanwyck in an ambulance that’s on a collision course with decadent mayhem. Stanwyck gets a job as a nurse, eventually assigned to care for the children of a neglectful mom. She’s neglectful because she’s drunk and under the influence of a sadistic Clark Gable. And oh look, Joan Blondell is in this one, too. Directed by “Wild” Bill Wellman. The film is among the first rank of early 30s precodes.
Pretty actor Tyrone Power comes back from WWII and wants to play more serious part. So here he is as a carnival worker who rises through like as an increasingly successful con man. Until he doesn’t. Great noir visuals and wonderful performances by the underseen Helen Walker, and the can’t-be-overseen Joan Blondell.
All this fuss over one lady in a painting. Laura! Loads of men want her, she has a song that’s quite memorable, and everyone in this movie talks about her constantly. Otto Preminger directs Gene Tierney, Vincent Price, Dana Andrews, and Clifton Webb. It’s a great cast, and the film comes just as we’re entering the film noir era. But it’s far too pretty to be noir.
James Cagney became a star, Mae Clark took a grapefruit to the face and Jean Harlow made an impression. It’s an early “talkie” by William Wellman that’s both a blueprint for what would come later, and a uniquely brutal take on the gangster genre.
Here’s a Billy Wilder master class that some people call one of the greatest comedies ever - “The Apartment.” We’ll see about that! It was among the inspirations for “Mad Men,” so there’s that, too. Jack Lemon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred McMurray are your leads. Welcome to the swinging’ 60s, businessman style.
It’s the best-loved of the four movies Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant made together, and the one that also stars Jimmy Steward. Another George Cukor production, this was Hepburn’s triumphant entry into MGM, and her middle finger to the “box office poison” label of the late 1930s. “Hullo, George!”
Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard and a stellar cast of supporting actresses are just doing the best they can, moving through their upper-class New York world.
Bogart, Huston and Holt go hunting for gold in Mexico, and they find it. But it’s unlikely they’ll get to keep it. John Huston’s 1947 “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” includes some of the best performances of the three lead actors’ careers, and a lot of visual flourishes, social commentary and a giant blob of irony.
John Sturges’ “Bad Day at Black Rock” takes place soon after World War II, but it feels like something out of the Old West. You could also call it “daylight noir.” Spencer Tracy faces off against Robert Ryan, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine and a whole bunch of townspeople with something to hide. We talk about filmmaking techniques, performance and how a one-armed dude survives his 24 hours in Black Rock.
Or. What if Santa Claus Pushed You off a Tower?
One of Alfred Hitchcock’s earliest American films is among the most enjoyable to watch. Joel McCrea is the reporter of the title, off to find out what’s happening in Europe for the benefit of a prewar American audience. Spies, murder and amazing character actors abound, along with some extraordinary Hitchcock set pieces.
The usually affable Joel McCrea is sort of the hero, but not exactly lovable. And Ginger Rogers may have done everything Fred Astaire did “backwards and in heels” but here, she is not living her best life. “Primrose Path” takes an unrelenting look at a dysfunctional family. It was unusual for its time, and gives the two leads a lot to do.
Hark! Is that the sound of a zither? Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949) stars Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten, not necessarily in order of screentime, it’s a post-war noir classic, set in Vienna, with compelling photography, plot and performances. This episode is also The Incomparable’s second look at this film.
He’s largely unknown today, but Warren William had an important role in what we know today as pre-code film. Sadly, many of his films are neither streaming or rentable. but we did find one that shows off his seedy side. If you’d like more recommendations, listen in. William usually played a dapper, middle-aged villain with a taste for much younger women, and a line that would get him what he wanted. As we say in this episode, think William Powell, but sinister. After his pre-code days, William played Perry Mason in several films, as well as a detective called the Lone Wolf.
We go full-on romance classic with Random Harvest (1942), starring the luminous Greer Garson and the handsome and very English Ronald Colman (she’s Irish.) It’s a golden age, big studio production, and it’s great. There’s love, there’s war (or the aftermath of war), there’s loss of memory… I’ve said too much already. I unreservedly love this one, and not for any knowing precode touches or hard-boiled characters. I love it because Garson and Colman are great together and it made me cry and stuff.
Let us consider 1949’s The Fountainhead, the first filmed version of an Ayn Rand novel, though it’s not the first time Rand’s words were spoken onscreen. She worked as a writer in Hollywood while nursing her brew of objectivist beliefs and turning them into some, um, interesting books. Our film stars Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, and is based on Rand’s novel of the same name. So, how do we feel about all this? Listen and find out!
Edgar G. Ulmer’s “Detour” is both a low-budget B movie, and one of the most influential and elemental examples of America’s film noir. Its stars were largely unknown, and it was released by a poverty row studio. It’s also a great film - one that was “rediscovered” by film nerds and preservationists in recent years, and has now been restored and given a Crierion release. What’s all the fuss? We’re gonna find out?
January 14, 2021 • 43 minutes • Detour: A road trip goes very, very badly • Nathan Alderman
It’s “Ball of Fire.” Howard Hawks directs; Billy Wilder writes. And Barbara Stanwyck is Sugarpuss O’Shea, who hides out from the cops with a group of dotty professors working on a new encyclopedia. Gary Cooper is in it too, along with S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, Richard Haydn and many more. It’s a comedy classic. Even so, we manage to drop many many hot takes.
By popular demand among both members and panelists actual and potential, we explore this 1945 classic. Peter Godfrey (who?) directs Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan and a cast of delightful character actors in a holiday story about covering up lies with more lies on a farm in Connecticut on Christmas Eve. Holiday food and sleigh rides aplenty.
Believed by many to be the best of the Astaire-Rogers musicals, “Top Hat” was also the most successful. It arrived in the middle of their run as an on-screen couple. It’s both a musical and a screwball comedy with songs by Irving Berlin. It also features a stellar supporting cast: Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick, Eric Blore and, wait, is that Lucile Ball?
LTS acknowledges the pumpkin-spiced holiday.
From IMDB: “American honeymooners in Hungary become trapped in the home of a Satan-worshiping priest when the bride is taken there for medical help following a road accident.”
From Shelly: “Oh, I forgot this was an Edgar G. Ulmer joint.”
Universal horror’s big guns are firing in this old dark house story where the ODC is actually a modernist masterpiece, built atop a former fortress. Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and a cast of less interesting people populate this amazing film.
It’s cynical, it’s Billy Wilder, and it’s still relevant. On-the-skids newspaper man Kirk Douglas is gonna do ANYTHING to get that story. This movie came up during the very first Lions, Towers & Shields episode as one that several panelists would watch again. And here they are!
In an early starring role, Cary Grant upends the sensibilities of a small town that’s rife with gossip and hypocrisy. And we have expert help this week, because the panel includes a man who’s created an audio documentary about Grant.
Here’s a delicious little film noir, where greed is breathtaking, and you’ll wonder who’s the evilest - until you know for sure.
This is the film that should have won Judy Garland the Oscar. It was both her greatest triumph, and a comeback film. It’s directed by George Cukor, the “woman’s director” of so many female-centered studio films. There’s a whole book about the making of “A Star is Born,” in fact. Also, this is the three-hour one.
Welcome to another crossover where I join the Agents of S.M.O.O.C.H. for a timey-whimey road trip for our Virtual Vacation series. Our agents tease apart the five(?) timelines in Two for the Road (1967), starring Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney using the cars the characters drive. Join us as we criss-cross through ten years of time and space while road-tripping through France towards the Mediterranean coast. Sometimes it’s smooth sailing, sometimes it’s rocky, sometimes there are too many people in the car. Make sure you pack the sunscreen.
Preston Sturgess was in top form in 1941 for this comedy starring Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake - in one of her first films. McCrea is a movie director, looking for a way to make a “socially relevant” film, instead of the comedies he’s been making. McCrea travels as a hobo, trying to “know trouble” in a way he can’t while living his life as a Hollywood director. Like Orson Welles, Sturges used a stock company of character actors, and many of them are along for the ride.
We offer you a summer movie set in Rome. Directed by William Wyler, and starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, Roman Holiday tells the story of an American newspaper reporter who meets a princess and liberates her from the confinement of her royal station for a romantic adventure in 1950s Rome for a classic royal and the commoner tale. The people and the scenery are beautiful, and the actors have lovely chemistry. The is among the earliest, and best of the 1950s-60s films that took Americans to a Europe that had finally begun recovering from the horrors of World War II.
James Cagney is a bootlegger. This is the story of his rise and fall. Warner Brothers had been producing gangster yarns since the early 30s, many featuring Cagney. But late ’30s filmmaking had become better and more watchable, with studio stalwarts like Cagney, Bogart and Frank McHugh now pros at the genre. Add in the wonderful and underrated Gladys George, and you’ve got yourself a movie! Raoul Walsh, whose career went back to silents, and who would later direct Cagney in “White Heat,” directed. “The Roaring Twenties” is part social commentary, crime movie and melodrama. And it’s one of the most entertaining movies of this genre.
Here’s the film, based on James M. Cain’s story, that won Joan Crawford an Oscar, and began the Warner Brothers phase of her career, after MGM sent her packing. It tells the story of Mildred, who begins a new life when her marriage ends by building a restaurant empire. But her selfish daughter (Ann Blyth) and her lover (Zachary Scott) don’t make things easy for the proprietor of Mildred’s Fatburger. Bonus? Film noir with a female protagonist.
Screwball comedy and Depression-era inequity meet in “My Man Godfrey” (1935). William Powell is experiencing the Depression first-hand, from under a bridge, when a society swell arrives and offers him a few dollars to help her win a scavenger hunt. Before you know it, Powell is buttling in the house of a dysfunctional wealthy family. Hilarity, and the politics of class follow. Carole Lombard, William Powell, Alice Brady and Gail Patrick are all marvelous, as is the rest of the supporting cast. “My Man Godfrey” was nominated for six Oscars, including the first two supporting actor statues ever awarded, but won none.
Old Movie News
- TCM May Star of the Month: Edward G. Robinson
- Spotlight on Asian Americans in Film (May 6, 13, 20),
- Wonder Women (Tuesdays) features biopics or women heroes.
- Tip Top Tap (May 11),
Into the Nitrate Vault
Old Movie News
What do you get when you combine a director of 50s melodrama, a screwball TV comedian, a deliciously flamboyant cad, and a bunch of great character actors from Britain and America? Why, a British Jack the Ripper mystery, of course. On this episode, we’re talking about 1947’s “Lured,” directed by Douglas Sirk, and starring Lucile Ball and George Sanders. We will spoil the ending in this episode, like we do, so watch the movie, probably for free, before you listen.
Classic films, by definition, are comfort food, or at least, they’re escapist entertainment. Our panel picks films they love, and want to watch right now, as we confront a lot of time indoors during the coronavirus pandemic.
Lily has had a rough life. Her father has basically been pimping her out, and she's had it! She and her friend Chico, who happens to be a black woman, take off for New York so Lily soon begins climbing the corporate ladder, using each corporate executive s weakness to obtain what she wants. Because that's how Nietzsche would want her to do it. "Baby Face" is a quintessential pre-code movie. And it had a lot to do with the code being enforced a few months aster its release.
Come with us to late 1930s New York. It's the Depression, but you wouldn't know it here on Fifth Avenue, where the Setons live, and where things would be even better - if we had the right kind of government. We're discussing the 1938 film, Holiday, directed by George Cukor, and staring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. There's a bit of old movie news, too. Just a bit.
We begin a journey into the past, for the love of classic Hollywood-era movies. We've got memories of Kirk Douglas, Blu-Ray news, and a recap and review of Robert Wise's 1949 masterpiece, "The Set-Up."