Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Movies I’ve stared at recently on TCM #23 (31 Days of Oscar edition)

Seeing as how I’ve been skating by the past few days on posting nothing but comic strips, I figured I’d emerge from my undisclosed location and put something of substance on the blog…

(Waits for laughter to subside)

Thanks ever so. You’re a good group. I’ve been keeping busy with an outside project on which I’m putting the finishing touches, but I’ve also kept myself amused watching quite a few episodes of a classic TV show that I hope will lend itself to a review here on the blog in the next day or two. Add to this mix a few viewings of some classic movies via the 31 Days of Oscar on TCM:

Destination Tokyo (1943) – This one was a no-brainer for yours truly, insomuch as I’ll pretty much watch any film with one of my movie idols, John Garfield, in it—but what I found curious about Destination is that not only is Julie in this one but so is the poor man’s Garfield, Dane Clark. (Garfield and Clark are also in Hollywood Canteen [1944] and Pride of the Marines [1945], in case you were curious.) Cary Grant, in the only WW2 film he made during WW2, is the skipper of the U.S.S. Copperfin—a submarine chosen to infiltrate Tokyo Bay and gather the necessary intelligence for the Doolittle raid (which was chronicled at another studio in a picture entitled Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo [1944]). Destination is your typical paint-by-the-numbers propaganda piece (naturally, the Japanese are not particularly well spoken of during its 135 minutes running time) but the direction (Delmer Daves, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Albert Maltz from Steve Fisher’s story) and cast are hard to beat: Alan Hale is “Cookie,” the comic relief galley cook, Robert Hutton is “The Kid” (whose emergency appendectomy is one of the film’s highlights) and both Tom Tully and Warner Anderson appear long before The Caine Mutiny (1954) and the TV adaptation of the OTR crime drama chestnut The Lineup. (John Forsythe gets his first onscreen credit here, too.)

Susan Slept Here (1954) – My friend Maureen recommended this Frank Tashlin-directed musical comedy that stars Dick Powell as a washed-up screenwriter who ends up as custodian to juvenile delinquent Debbie Reynolds. (And let me just say here that if Reynolds is a j.d., I’m a Reagan Republican.) Naturally, I’m game for a Powell picture (this was his last onscreen starring role) but I have to admit that I squirmed a bit during this sex comedy (Powell marries Reynolds’ seventeen-year-old character to get her out of trouble with cops Herb Vigran and Horace McMahon), even though it does have an interesting supporting cast in Glenda “Torchy Blane” Farrell, Anne “Honey West” Francis, Alvy “Hank Kimball” Moore and Les “Mentor” Tremayne. Destination Tokyo’s Steve Fisher and Alex Gottlieb wrote the play on which Susan is based, with Gottlieb contributing the screenplay. Tashlin devotees might get more of a kick out of it than I did.

Sounder (1972) – I’m probably not as enthusiastic about the oeuvre of Martin Ritt as I am other directors on the blog, but I really am a fan of his work—particularly Hud (1963), Hombre (1967), The Front (1976) and Murphy’s Romance (1985). I gambled on Sounder—having not seen it before—and thoroughly enjoyed the experience; the great Paul Winfield and Cicely Tyson (I saw Cicely on TCM promoting this movie the other day and she is still a stone fox) are the patriarch and matriarch of a Depression era (Louisiana, 1933) sharecropper family for which times have always been tough…and get much tougher when Winfield is arrested for stealing (and slaughtering) a hog and is sentenced to one year of hard labor in a prison camp, leaving Tyson and her three children the responsibility of getting the crop in. The evocation of that time period is beautifully captured by cinematographer John A. Alonzo, and though it was tough luck competing in the year that brought The Godfather (1972) to cinematic screens, Sounder is a must-see film for the truly outstanding performances by the two principals (along with future TV director Kevin “The White Shadow” Hooks as their oldest son, Carmen Matthews, redneck sheriff James Best and supportive schoolteacher Janet MacLachlan) and Ritt’s low-key direction. The scene where Winfield arrives home after serving his time is a cinematic moment not easily forgotten.

Oh, I almost forgot…I did something Sunday night that I haven’t done in quite a few years, namely watched the Oscar telecast. Another three-and-a-half hours of my life I’m not getting back.


Scott C. said...

Yeah, forget Susan Slept Here, let's see TCM program a few Torchy Blanes.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Yeah, forget Susan Slept Here, let's see TCM program a few Torchy Blanes.

Ask and ye shall receive (though it doesn't hurt to bang on the counter a little, either):

TCM: April 14, 2009 - Tuesday

10:45 AM Smart Blonde (1936)
11:45 AM Adventurous Blonde (1937)
1:00 PM Blondes At Work (1938)
2:15 PM Torchy Blane In Panama (1938)
3:15 PM Torchy Gets Her Man (1938)
4:30 PM Torchy Blane in Chinatown (1938)
5:30 PM Torchy Runs For Mayor (1939)
6:45 PM Torchy Plays With Dynamite (1939)

Scott C. said...

Halleluja, Brother Shreve! Thanks! (Although I think I'll give Torchy Blane in Panama a pass -- the casting bugs me. I like Paul Kelly, but he's no substitute for Barton MacLane, and Lola -- cute though she may be -- ain't no Glen OR Glenda.)