Posted by highhurdler on May 30, 2009
One of the greatest things about Turner Classic Movies, besides Robert Osborne, is the fact that they show movies that can’t be (readily) seen anywhere else. Starting Monday, TCM will be featuring some of the best films from fifty-two of (arguably) the most celebrated directors in cinema’s history. While you’re probably familiar with the classics that will air during primetime throughout the month – virtually all of which ARE available on DVD – you may not have seen some of these directors little known gems (that is unless, like me, you’re a regular viewer of the channel). Some of these titles are (or have been) tied up in legal battles which have prevented their physical distribution to date; for others, their owners apparently don’t believe that the market is sufficient enough (given the costs) to make them available. In time, Warner’s Archive and (Internet, cable & satellite) on-demand offerings will make it easier to see these ‘forgotten’ films from Hollywood’s Golden Era; for now, TCM is the only show in town. Regardless of the reason(s), I’ve compiled a list of some of the better unavailable movies found on June’s schedule.
June 4 – The Devil and Miss Jones (1941) is a hilarious comedy, directed by Sam Wood, which stars Jean Arthur, Charles Coburn, Robert Cummings, Spring Byington, and Edmund Gwenn among others. Coburn picked up his first of three Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominations playing J.P. Merrick, the richest man in the world; he owns and controls a conglomerate. After some employees at one of his department stores hang him in effigy and start forming a union, the executive decides to go undercover as a worker at the store to find out whose organizing it. He’s assigned to work for a stern taskmaster (Gwenn) with coworkers (Arthur, whose boyfriend Cummings is the organizer, and Byington) that eventually charm and transform him. Norman Krasna picked up his third Oscar nomination for his original screenplay.
June 6 – see two that haven’t aired on the channel in quite some time, These Three (1936) and Hell’s Heroes (1930), both directed by William Wyler. The former – a drama written by Lillian Hellman about the damage that rumor and innuendo can do – was remade by the director twenty-five years later as The Children’s Hour (1961), which is more faithful to the original story (and is available on DVD), but the original is the superior adaptation. It stars Miriam Hopkins, Merle Oberon and Joel McCrea and features (then 12 year-old) Bonita Granville’s Oscar nominated performance; to protect herself and a friend, she tells her grandmother (Alma Kruger) a lie that has serious consequences for the adults. The latter is the fourth of seven versions (and the first talkie) of the outlaw ‘Three Wise Men’ Westerns based on Peter Kyne’s novel The Three Godfathers. Charles Bickford plays the character later played by Chester Morris (in 1936), and popularized by John Wayne in the 1948 (first color) version.
June 11 – although most people have seen (and love) The African Queen (1951), the adventure romance drama which netted Humphrey Bogart his Best Actor Oscar and Katharine Hepburn her fifth of twelve Best Actress nominations, it remains a mystery why director John Huston’s masterpiece isn’t available on DVD.
June 23rd – features two from director Ernst Lubitsch – The Merry Widow (1934) & The Student Prince In Old Heidelberg (1927) – which are worth mentioning. The former is the oft-remade story (this one’s a musical romantic comedy featuring Maurice Chevalier & Jeanette MacDonald, among others) while the latter is a four star silent romance drama about a young prince (Ramon Novarro) who learns to live, and love a commoner (Norma Shearer), before duty calls; Jean Hersholt plays the prince’s indulging teacher.
June 30 – if you enjoy Jeanette MacDonald’s musicals, then you’ll probably want to see Maytime (1937) – directed by two-time Best Director nominee Robert Z. Leonard, which isn’t quite as good as those that she made with Chevalier, but at least it features her most regular on-screen partner, Nelson Eddy.
Several other renown classics which are now out of print will also be shown in June, including William A. Wellman’s Story of G.I. Joe (1945) on the 17th, David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago (1965) on the 26th, and Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959) on the 27th (though this one is being prepared for a 50th Anniversary Blu-ray release for later this year, per The Digital Bits). Others which may be of interest include Jacques Tourneur’s Berlin Express (1948) on the 12th, Clarence Brown’s The White Cliffs of Dover (1944) on the 15th, Robert Wise’s Two for the Seesaw (1962) on the 16th, Edward Dmytryk’s Raintree County (1957) on the 22nd, and Anthony Mann’s Strategic Air Command (1955) on the 30th.
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