Friday, July 25, 2014

If you could be a TCM Guest Programmer...

Yesterday's TCM Facebook feed asked what movies we would choose given the opportunity to be a Guest Programmer. I thought, Oh yeah, I've got this. That is until it dawned on me that Guest Programmers only choose four movies. Four movies? How could any lover of classic movies choose only four movies???

A self-proclaimed organizational nerd (and proud of it), I opened up a Word doc and began to list personal favorites as well as those that anyone new to old movies should see (the educator coming out in me). My thoughts raced. Every golden decade ('30s-'60s) should be represented. A screwball comedy should be there. And everyone should see the fabulous pairing of Fred and Ginger. 

Oh and a musical. A bonafide, all out, glorious Technicolor, dance routines and catchy songs musical. And what about Hitchcock? 

Hitchcock definitely deserves a place. And the list needs to be rounded out by a '60s sex comedy. Not to mention some of the movies I love just because. The narrowing down of the list, movie versus movie, began to look like my hubby's Super Bowl bracket and still I was not satisfied. It was a case of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
if you give a gal a choice of four movies, she's going to want to add another musical. If she adds another musical, she's going to want to add a film noir. Add if she's adds a film noir, she will be taking over TCM's programming for a day (or two).

Fortunately in this little corner of the internet, my list can encompass more than four films. For readers who are new to classic films, here is a list to get you started. And for those of you who have mileage under your belt, I'm interested in hearing your input. So without much further ado, here are a dozen recommendations:

Pre-code - Made prior to the Hays Code, which strictly censored movies from mid '30s to early '60s. For the new viewer these movies will appear shockingly modern in their content. (Confession: I'm relatively new to these, so the pool of movies I'm pulling from is rather small.)
1. Consolation Marriage (1931) - Story focuses on a marriage not for love, but for convenience with the mindset that divorce is an option at any time (yet the wife gets pregnant, which means this non-loving couple must have...gasp!). Features: Irene Dunne's first starring role and blonde pre-Thin Man Myrna Loy,  unfortunately not available on DVD 
2. Finishing School (1934) - Story was written prior to but released after strict enforcement of Hays Code, so some of the 'naughtiness' is implied rather than straight out told. Drinking ladies, pre-marital sex, and abortion are some of the taboo subjects hinted upon in this film. Features: Ginger Rogers in an early non-dancing role

Screwball Comedy - Known for its crazy antics, it will require you to suspend belief, but if you play along, oh the fun you will have! 
3. Bringing Up Baby (1938) - This is the quintessential screwball comedy with non-stop sticky situations and laughter waiting around every corner. Features: the great Kate Hepburn and debonaire Cary Grant (two very important Golden Age stars)
And this is only part of the fun...

Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers - The greatest dance team ever to grace the celluloid deserves their own category. (For the greatest single dance routine, see Astaire and Eleanor Powell tapping to "Begin the Beguine" in Broadway Melody of 1940.
4. Follow the Fleet (1936) - When it comes to this team, you can't go wrong with any of their pairings, so I went with my favorite. Why am I partial to this one? Nautical theme (I may have a few rooms decorated in said motif *wink *wink), message of the songs "Let Yourself Go" (yes, everyone should dance!) and "Let's Face the Music and Dance" (again dancing is the answer--can you tell I like to dance?? sure it's metaphorical, but it doesn't have to be--just look at Fred and Ginger), and fabulous '30s fashion. I could go on, but this is getting a little long.  Features: Betty Grable and Lucille Ball before they were famous, Harriet before she was Harriet Nelson, and pre-cowboy Randolph Scott

World War II Films - Okay, so I created this category just so I can include two of my all-time favorites. From film to fashion, I am a little obsessed with this time period.  


5. Casablanca (1942) - I hate to be cliche, but this is simply the greatest movie ever made. I'm a dialogue person and this movie doesn't waste one word. Every line adds to the characters' relationships and pushes the plot forward. The film leaves the audience with a great message that stretches beyond war propaganda and into any era: do the right thing no matter what the personal costs. And then there's that lovely last line, which if you think about it, is really redefining 'family' and in so doing offers hope despite the tears. 
6. More the Merrier (1943) - From drama to comedy... I saw this movie for the first time several years ago and laughed the whole way through. Watch for the hilarious doorstep scene when Joel McCrea's and Jean Arthur's characters are necking; it's like he has eight arms and she's battling to keep them off her. (I'm sure many a girl can relate.) Of course, she's only resisting because she has a fiancé. In the end...well, you can imagine what happens. [Side note - Turns out McCrea was a total hunk when he was younger. Who knew?] Features: suggestive split screen over fifteen years prior to Pillow Talk's famous scene
From More the Merrier

Hitchcock - Must see because everyone should know why Hitchcock is known as the Master of Suspense.
7. Lifeboat (1944) - This is another category where you really can't go wrong with the Hitch movie you choose. This lesser known film is one of my favorites. Why? For one thing, I've always identified with Tallulah Bankhead's character: a tough writer who arms herself with a typewriter and lipstick. She even finds a little romance before the closing credits (or rather, romance finds her...by now you may sense that I'm a sucker for romance). The whole movie takes place in a boat with an array of characters who normally would not associate with each other. Awesome set up and the first of its kind. The viewer wonders, How is Hitch going to pull off a story with such a limited setting? And more importantly, how is he going to make his legendary cameo? Well, it works and he does, but you're going to have to watch the film to find out how. 

Film Noir - Crime drama known for detectives, femme fatales, and stylized black and white cinematography. I might have some backlash from movie buffs on my choices here. These are just my personal favorites. Other films I considered: The Big Sleep (1946)The Blue Dahlia (1946) and The Third Man (1949).


8. Double Indemnity (1944) - Barbara Stanwyck not only pulls Fred MacMurray into her web, but also the viewer. This was the first movie I saw where I realized I was rooting for the bad guy. Reality check. But I bet you will too. [Side note - Growing up watching Fred MacMurray in reruns of "My Three Sons" and Disney movies such as The Shaggy Dog, I was surprised to find out he was kind of sexy - see Millionaire for Christy (1951) for further example of said sexiness.] 
9. Gilda (1946) - It's worth the view if only to understand what Rita Hayworth meant when she famously said, "Men fell in love with Gilda, but they wake up with me." The role haunted her for the rest of her life, becoming a factor in her downward spiral as she tried to cope with the image it helped create. There is a love triangle in the movie, killer lines, and of course, Rita at her sexiest. The fiery relationship between Glenn Ford's and Rita's characters as well as the one between Ford's and George Macready's lends itself to some interesting discussions for those of us who love to analyze films. Watch for Rita's rendition of "Put the Blame on Mame" sung only to the washroom attendant. She acts it (I say "acts" because her singing voice was actually dubbed) with such sadness, you can't help but feel that her character personally knows what it is like to have blame misplaced on her. There is a lot more going on than meets the eye.

Musical Comedy - Show tunes generally with a light, fluffy plot. Sunshine in a film canister. The stuff happiness is made of.
Cyd and Kelly--what a dance routine!
Look at those lines!
10. Singin' in the Rain (1952) - This has it all: vibrant Technicolor; brilliant dance routines featuring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, and Cyd Charisse;  fabulous songs; plenty of comedy and a strong plot that recounts early Hollywood's transition to talkies. Jean Hagen is not too shabby either (you'll know what I mean when you see it).  
11. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) - I love this musical for sentimental reasons--it's a old favorite that my mom and I watch every time she's in town (or I'm over there). Listen to the lyrics; they  are incredibly funny and there is a lot of truth to them. While my mom was chuckling when Marilyn Monroe pointed to her derriere and sang, "Men grow cold/As girls grow old/And we all lose our charm in the end" (and after a few kids, I can appreciate the humor), we both understood the meaning behind, "Then someone broke my heart in Little Rock/So I up and left the pieces there [...] I came New York/And I found out/That men are the same way everywhere."  This spot on the movie list is all about passing on the fun from my mom and me to you.

Sixties Sex Comedy - Everybody is talking about sex in these movies, but nobody is having it.
12. Lover Come Back (1961) - This follow up to the successful Pillow Talk (1959), has Doris Day once again being duped by Rock Hudson's character. Fun because we know what Hudson really means when he tells Day's character, "I'm taking you in" complete with a big fish eating a little fish in the background--if you've missed this, look for it the next time you watch this film. Features: fab fashion like its predecessor, beautifully designed apartment (take note: yellows and whites with red and blue accents--even Day's outfits in the apartment match), Ann B. Davis (better known as Alice in "The Brady Bunch"), and Tony Randall  



This list is by no means complete. I know a western should be there somewhere and probably a campy sci-fi as well. I could have  included several holiday movies, but that is easily a list of its own (on which would be three notable names missing from this one--Jimmy Stewart, Judy Garland, and Bing Crosby), so I've saved that for another day.

Oh and those four choices? It wasn't easy, but I finally made up my mind and posted them--for better or worse--to TCM. What would your four be?

2 comments:

  1. I found this to be interesting. It is a conundrum on how to narrow down your choices to only four. I can agree with (most) of the categories, although maybe not all of the choices within the categories. And I personally don't like musicals as a rule. There are a few I do like, but my main problem with musicals is getting over the hump of, in the middle of dialogue and action, everybody on screen decides to do an exposition in song. At least in Cabaret the songs didn't drive the story. And this is the kind of musical I do like. Not that I won't watch a classic at least once, and I do find exceptions to that rule (I liked Fiddler on the Roof, for instance.)

    Film noir would be at the top of my list, for sure. (I am hosting a film noir blogathon on my own blog, if you needed any more proof...) My own choice would be "The Maltese Falcon". And I would add a screwball comedy: "Arsenic and Old Lace", nothing else would suffice. Gotta throw in a Western (only a footnote on your post, but westerns are my 3rd favorite kind of movie) I'd put up a John Wayne movie, of course, probably "Stagecoach". And to top it off, just to throw off people who would try to pigeonhole me with those first three, something oddball that no one expects, like "Fitzcarralkdo"

    ReplyDelete
  2. I found this to be interesting. It is a conundrum on how to narrow down your choices to only four. I can agree with (most) of the categories, although maybe not all of the choices within the categories. And I personally don't like musicals as a rule. There are a few I do like, but my main problem with musicals is getting over the hump of, in the middle of dialogue and action, everybody on screen decides to do an exposition in song. At least in Cabaret the songs didn't drive the story. And this is the kind of musical I do like. Not that I won't watch a classic at least once, and I do find exceptions to that rule (I liked Fiddler on the Roof, for instance.)

    Film noir would be at the top of my list, for sure. (I am hosting a film noir blogathon on my own blog, if you needed any more proof...) My own choice would be "The Maltese Falcon". And I would add a screwball comedy: "Arsenic and Old Lace", nothing else would suffice. Gotta throw in a Western (only a footnote on your post, but westerns are my 3rd favorite kind of movie) I'd put up a John Wayne movie, of course, probably "Stagecoach". And to top it off, just to throw off people who would try to pigeonhole me with those first three, something oddball that no one expects, like "Fitzcarralkdo"

    ReplyDelete