Christmas on Celluloid: “Susan Slept Here”

susanopenerLast week, I wrote about Christmas in Connecticut with its charming romance, role-reversal comedy, and Currier and Ives backdrop. The film is the very essence of a holiday classic for the whole family: It features warm sentiment, Christmas carols around a tree, and sleigh rides in the snow. This week, I couldn’t resist writing about Susan Slept Here, which is a Christmas comedy with a May-December romance set against the cynical backdrop of the Hollywood industry. Last year, I devoted a paragraph to Susan Slept Here in a list of unconventional Christmas movies, and I hesitated to write about it again. But, TCM is airing the film in the wee hours of December 11 so interested viewers will have an opportunity to catch it. Set those DVRs for 5:00am this Thursday, because this oddity may not be a Christmas classic, but it is the kind of movie that is a lot of fun for cinephiles.

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I Saw That Coming

Fred Zinnemann had a long and varied career (including the classic From Here to Eternity, airing today on TCM, on the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor) but it was near the end of his career, with his third to last film, The Day of the Jackal, that he had one of his biggest box office hits ever.   He wasn’t sure he wanted to do it when he first got the offer but the more he thought about it, the more he was intrigued.  Here was a suspense thriller in which the entire plot revolves around a mission that the audience, or at least the historically/culturally aware audience, knows will ultimately fail.   After all, the mission is to assassinate Charles de Gaulle.  Three years before the movie was made, de Gaulle died from a ruptured blood vessel in his home.  He was not assassinated.  So anyone going into the movie would know that the Jackal (Edward Fox), the assassin followed by the movie as he moves closer and closer to de Gaulle, doesn’t succeed.  That leaves the question, where’s the suspense?  To create suspense from a situation with a known outcome was something Zinnemann couldn’t resist and unlike the Jackal, he succeeded completely.  The Day of the Jackal is a great suspense thriller, even though we know how it ends.

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December 6, 2014
David Kalat
Posted by:

Ground Control to Major Tom

Hi everybody–I’m taking the week off to give my spot over to my daughter, Ann Stapel-Kalat.  She’s gonna talk about space movies.  OK, Ann–take it away!

Before I say anything about this topic, let’s get two things straight. 1. I really freaking love space. 2. I know absolutely nothing about space. You could throw anything at me about space and I’d believe it. For someone who claims movies about space to be her favorite, I really haven’t done my homework. However, I am a 17 year old girl looking into a career in music, so I don’t think a very high level of expertise is expected of me. My emotions and opinions on science fiction could be completely different from one of a space major (yes, I know space major isn’t what it’s called but bear with me). But let’s talk about it anyway. Oh, one more thing to set straight: I am absolutely terrified of space.

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KEYWORDS: 2001 A Space Odyssey, Gravity, interstellar, the black hole
COMMENTS: 3
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Wait a Minute, Mister, You Got Me All Wrong

There’s an old episode of M*A*S*H (I guess they’re all old since the series concluded over thirty years ago but whatever) in which the guys in the camp are all excited to get a copy of The Moon is Blue, airing today on TCM, which, I probably don’t have to say, they didn’t have (also, the film came out a few months after the war ended, but we’ll ignore that, too).  Anyway, they’re excited because they’ve heard about its sexual raciness and how it was banned in several places but when it finally arrives, no one is impressed.  Hawkeye (Alan Alda) is particularly dismayed.  Father Mulcahy (William Christopher), in an attempt to make lemonade out of lemons, remarks that the movie did use the word “virgin.”  Hawkeye replies, “That’s because everyone in this movie is one!”  Had Hawkeye and company been expecting what The Moon is Blue actually was, and is, a relationship comedy adapted from the stage, they might have liked it a lot more.  But sometimes our expectations are so off, it changes our regard for the movie from the negative to the positive or vice versa.  This has happened to me on a few occasions, sometimes because I simply misinterpreted the title, sometimes because my idea of what the movie was about was from a different universe.

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Holiday Greetings from The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come!

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This week TCM is presenting two classic Christmas films on December 7th in association with Fathom Events and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. You can see A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1938) and CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1945) at participating theaters across the country and as my fellow Morlock, Susan Doll pointed out in her post about the event earlier this week, they make for great family friendly holiday viewing.

I personally have a soft spot for just about every film version of A Christmas Carol. This is partially due to the fact that one of my first and last acting roles was in a stage adaptation of Charles Dickens’ timeless tale mounted by my elementary school where I got the opportunity to play the spooky silent specter of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. And like countless other readers, I’m also simply enamored with Dickens’ story of an old miser visited by four phantoms on Christmas Eve who inspire generosity and teach him to love life again. Nearly 175 years have passed since it was originally published but A Christmas Carol still has the power to chill us to the bone and warm our cold hearts during the winter holiday.

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Extra! Extra! SHOCK CINEMA No. 47 reviewed!

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Just because I’m TCM Underground’s new bitch, that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about my cultural obligation to share good news about the good stuff. Steve Puchalski’s new SHOCK CINEMA is making the rounds, just in time for the Yuletide!

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This week on TCM Underground: ROLLER BOOGIE (1979).

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A rich girl from Beverly Hills and a poor boy from Venice Beach become partners to win a roller boogie contest and save a local skating rink from being torn down by unscrupulous developers.

ROLLER BOOGIE (1979) Cast: Linda Blair (Terry Barkey), Jim Bray (Bobby James), Beverly Garland (Mrs. Barkley), Roger Perry (Mr. Barkley), Jimmy Van Patten (Hoppy), Kimberly Beck (Lana), Sean McClory (Jammer Delaney), Mark Goddard (Thatcher), Stoney Jackson (Phones), Albert Insinnia (Gordo), M.G. Kelly (D.J.), Chris Nelson (Franklin). Directed by Mark L. Lester. Written by Barry Schneider, from an original story by Irwin Yablans. Cinematography by Dean Cundey. Showtime: Saturday December 6, 2014, 11:15pm PST/2:15am EST [...MORE]

Cagney the Comedian: Boy Meets Girl (1938)

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By the end of 1935 James Cagney was irritated. Under his Warner Brothers contract he was assigned four-to-five movies a year, almost all in the pugilist-gangster mold. Cagney was getting burnt out on the repetition,  just as he was becoming a top ten box office attraction. Seeking a higher salary as well as greater input into his roles, Cagney walked off the studio lot and sued them for back pay. He had become a bad boy on-screen as well as off. He spent his time separated from WB making a couple of small features for the independent Grand National Pictures (Great Guy (’36) and Something to Sing About (’37)). The suit was settled in 1938, and Cagney was back at work at WB. His return film was the inside-Hollywood farce Boy Meets Girl, which was a recent Broadway hit. A rapid-fire parody of tinseltown excesses — it tracks the rise and fall of a literally newborn superstar — it allowed Cagney to stretch his comic chops. He gets to enact all of his mischievous Hollywood fantasies: mouthing off to the unit production chief (Ralph Bellamy), insulting soft-headed actors and inciting extras to riot. Cagney and Pat O’Brien play exaggerated versions of the famously acerbic screenwriting team of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur as they sweet talk their way into the heart of a naive mother whose baby becomes an overnight star. This cockeyed comedy is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

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Christmas on Celluloid: ‘Christmas in Connecticut’

xmaspianoTo get into the Christmas spirit, I often binge view my favorite Christmas movies. If I am feeling more like Scrooge than Bob Cratchit, I will binge view anti-Christmas movies. Either way, movie-watching is an essential part of my holiday celebration. If you are the same, you won’t want to miss the double feature of holiday classics that will hit theaters next Sunday, December 7. Fathom Events, TCM, and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment have joined forces to present the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol and Christmas in Connecticut in a special one-day big-screen event. Check here for a list of participating theaters.

Releasing classic movies on the big screen as a special event is a recent development for Fathom, and if you want them to continue, consider attending this family-friendly double feature as a show of support. To celebrate the occasion, I thought I would offer a few thoughts and musings on Christmas in Connecticut—one of my favorite holiday movies. On Thursday, check out fellow Morlock Kimberly Lindbergs’s blog post, because she is following up with insights into A Christmas Carol.

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Bergman’s Magic Lantern

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Last summer I had some fun at the expense of the printed TCM program for July by examining how brevity is not always the soul of wit, at least when it came to the short (by necessity) blurbs used in the monthly TCM guide to describe the six films that had been selected to showcase the talents of Ingmar Bergman. It turns out the post was premature and didn’t take into account that all six Bergman films got bumped for a last-minute tribute to James Garner (who passed away on July 19th). But this Wednesday, December 3rd, the Bergman Block is being brought back – and in honor of that I’m resuscitating my previously premature post here, adding a new preface. [...MORE]

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