Night of the Living Dead, playing Saturday on TCM.
Among new things this week we find Charlie Chaplin’s first full talkie The Great Dictator on TCM on Monday, The Bitter Tea of General Yen, a relatively early oddity in Frank Capra’s career, on TCM on Tuesday, late Truffaut film The Last Metro on IFC on Thursday, and Romero’s zombie classic Night of the Living Dead on TCM on Saturday. TCM brings out some 1940s greats to go along the latest installment of Moguls and Movie Stars, which focuses on wartime Hollywood, so stay tuned for those Monday and Wednesday night.
Monday, November 29
11:30am – TCM – Gold Diggers of 1933
The story’s nothing to get excited about (and in fact, the subplot that takes over the main plot wears out its welcome fairly quickly), but the strong Depression-era songs, kaleidoscopic choreography from Busby Berkeley, and spunky supporting work from Ginger Rogers pretty much make up for it.
1933 USA. Director: Mervyn LeRoy. Starring: Joan Blondell, Warren William, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Aline MacMahon, Ginger Rogers, Guy Kibbee.
1:15pm – TCM – 42nd Street
By 1932 when 42nd Street came out, the Hollywood musical had already died. So excited by the musical possibilities that sound brought in 1927, Hollywood pumped out terrible musical after terrible musical until everyone was sick of them. 42nd Street almost single-handedly turned the tide and remains one of the all-time classic backstage musicals. It may look a little creaky by later standards, but there’s a vitality and freshness to it that can’t be beat.
1932 USA. Director: Lloyd Bacon. Starring: Warner Baxter, Ruby Keeler, George Brent, Bebe Daniels, Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers, Una Merkel.
8:00pm – IFC – Barton Fink
One of the Coen Brothers’ most brilliant dark comedies (heh, I think I say that about all of their dark comedies, though), Barton Fink follows its title character, a New York playwright whose hit play brings him to the attention of Hollywood, where he goes to work for the movies. And it all goes downhill from there. Surreal, quirky, and offbeat, even among the Coens work. It’s based loosely on the experiences of Clifford Odets, whose heightened poetic style of writing has clearly been influential on the Coens throughout their career.
1991 USA. Director: Joel Coen. Starring: John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis, Michael Lerner, Tony Shalhoub.
(repeats at 1:45am on the 30th)
8:00pm – TCM – Moguls and Movie Stars: Warriors and Peace Makers
TCM’s Hollywood History series enters WWII, examining how Hollywood reacted to the war – everything from war-themed films to escapist entertainment to explicitly political films. A selection of those films directly inspired by the war and war efforts play tonight, then several other non-war themed 1940s films play Wednesday night as part of the series.
9:00pm – TCM – Casablanca
Against all odds, one of the best films Hollywood has ever produced, focusing on Bogart’s sad-eyed and world-weary expatriot Rick Blaine, his former lover Ingrid Bergman, and her current husband Paul Henreid, who needs safe passage to America to escape the Nazis and continue his work with the Resistance. It’s the crackling script that carries the day here, and the wealth of memorable characters that fill WWII Casablanca with life and energy.
1943 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains.
(repeats at 6:00pm on the 5th)
12:00M – TCM – The Great Dictator
Chaplin’s first completely talking film, and one in which he doesn’t play his Little Tramp character. Instead, he’s both Hitler and a Jewish man who looks strikingly like Hitler. This obviously creates confusion. Brilliantly scathing satire – it always amazes me that it was made as early as 1940.
1940 USA. Director: Charles Chaplin. Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard.
2:15am (30th) – TCM – They Were Expendable
There are films that don’t seem to be all that while you’re watching them – no particularly powerful scenes, not a particularly moving plot, characters that are developed but don’t jump out at you – and yet by the time you reach the end, you’re somehow struck with what a great movie you’ve seen. This film was like that for me – it’s mostly a lot of vignettes from a U-boat squadron led by John Wayne, the only one who thought the U-boat could be useful in combat. But it all adds up to something much more.
1945 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: John Wayne, Robert Montgomery, Donna Reed, Jack Holt, Ward Bond.
3:45am (30th) – IFC – The Piano
I often find Jane Campion films overly pretentious, but this one strikes the right chord, with Holly Hunter as a mute woman in an arranged marriage who finds love with one of her husbands’ hired hands – but stealing the show is her young daughter, an Oscar-winning performance by Anna Paquin.
1993 New Zealand. Director: Jane Campion. Starring: Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin.
4:30am (30th) – TCM – Hollywood Canteen
One of several films made during WWII that largely functioned as excuses for studios to parade their stable of stars on-screen in cameos, musical numbers, and comedy bits – in this case, the central device is the major Hollywood USO location of the title with a standard soldier-starlet romance plot, and the film has basically the whole Warner Bros. lot running around. It’s entertaining though not that good, and fun to see so many big stars playing themselves for a change.
1944 USA. Director: Delmer Daves. Starring: Robert Hutton, Joan Leslie, Dane Clark.
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