College students are coming to the Hotel Casa Del Mar–in pairs they come, two by two. It’s a veritable Noah’s Ark for young scholars. Why they have come is a matter of some debate, however. The new manager of the Casa Del Mar (Jack Benny) has told the coeds that they are going to be the summer entertainment for the hotel, a promotional gimmick to help rope in some tourists. And sure enough, he gets them to put on a show, full of elaborate song and dance numbers. But that’s just a ruse–the hotel’s deep in debt to a socialite (Mary Boland) with a fixation on using eugenics to engineer a new super-race, and the students are going to be her unwitting guinea pigs.
Posted by Greg Ferrara on July 8, 2016
Today on TCM, some of Charlie Chaplin’s later films (City Lights, Modern Times, and Limelight) fill the afternoon. Chaplin is a figure in cinema history whose fascination for me has more to do with his personal life than his movies. His movies, many of them masterpieces, are nonetheless broken up into such jarringly different phases that appreciating his film catalog from start to finish almost requires multiple sensibilities working against each other at once. It’s not just that he went from silents to sound, many film artists did that. It’s that he went from slapstick one-reelers to full length silent comedies to full length melodramatic comedies still defiantly silent in the sound era to talkies to star driven vehicles (Countess from Hong Kong) all within the course of a single career. Making it even more jarring is the fact that Chaplin’s visual style changed little, if at all, from The Great Dictator to Countess. He never seemed entirely comfortable in the sound era and Limelight, more than any of his other sound films, seems desperate to return to the good old days when silence was golden.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on July 7, 2016
Pull up a chair and pour yourself a nice cold glass of something. It’s time for my annual nonfiction Summer Reading Suggestions!
Posted by Greg Ferrara on July 6, 2016
This space was formerly occupied by Richard Harland Smith, who handled write-ups for TCM Underground on Wednesdays and retired from the Morlocks a couple of weeks ago. Since no one has yet taken this space over and since I had the Wednesday posts and Richard the Friday until we switched a while back, I figured this would be as good a space as any to write about my experiences with movie blogging and how so much of it was influenced by the very same Mr. Smith. It’s not the usual thing to send off a Morlock with a written tribute but Richard Harland Smith is important to me as a friend and a writer. I just want to say a few words to try and fill this empty space and talk about movie blogging through the years and how much my own sensibilities have been informed by Richard in that time and will continue to be as long as I write.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on July 5, 2016
Welcome to the third week of my Summer of Rohmer, in which I fill the void of my own vacation-less summer by vicariously joining the beach holidays of Eric Rohmer’s neurotic, attractive, and hyper-articulate characters. I started the series by visiting a Saint-Tropez cottage in La Collectionneuse, followed with a scenic French Alps home in Claire’s Knee, while today I scurried off to a Normandy beach house in Pauline at the Beach. We have leapt from Rohmer’s cycle of “Moral Tales” to his “Comedies and Proverbs”, as well as his shift to female protagonists (which began with his previous film A Good Marriage (1982)). Pauline at the Beach (1983) is set during the waning weeks of summer, with Marion (Arielle Dombasle) bringing her 15-year-old niece Pauline (Amanda Langlet) to spend a few parent-less weeks before they both have to return to work and school. There is a pressure to find friends and have a fling before the holiday runs out. The waifish blonde Marion is immediately pursued by two men, the dewy-eyed romantic Pierre (Pascal Greggory) and the older, pragmatic womanizer Henri (Feodor Atkine). Rohmer frames the film around Pauline’s observations. She is a quiet, almost background presence throughout, silently weighing Marion’s actions as she falls for Henri and keeps Pierre on her string. Rohmer leads off his Comedies and Proverbs films with a quote, and here it is one from Chretien de Troyes: “He who speaks too much does himself harm.” Marion, Pierre, and Henri talk incessantly about the nature of love, but show no knowledge of how to embody it. Instead they remain irrevocably wrapped up inside themselves. I produced the DVD and Blu-ray of Pauline at the Beach for Kino Lorber (complete with an Eric Rohmer interview and a fine booklet essay by Michelle Orange), so consider that a full disclosure of my biases.
Posted by Susan Doll on July 4, 2016
I hope most of my readers are enjoying today’s holiday with family, friends, and loved ones. Rather than distract you from your barbeques, picnics, cookouts, and fireworks with a long-winded blog post, I thought I would regale you with some of my favorite Fourth of July promotional photos of classic Hollywood stars.
I suspect the old-school press agents who worked for the studios back in the day knew that cheesecake photos of beautiful movie stars and fireworks was suggestive. Still, the images were innocent enough to pass through the Production Code office.
Remember, unlike the other cheesecake you consume today, this post has no calories!
Posted by Greg Ferrara on July 3, 2016
Years ago, sometime in the eighties, I was sitting in the living room of my parents house with my father and uncle, talking among ourselves as Barry Lyndon, Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 masterpiece, and my favorite of his works, played in the background. This did not bother my father as he was never much of a movie person in the first place and it didn’t bother me because I had seen Barry Lyndon at least five or six times by that point so I was happy just to have it going in the background of our conversation. My uncle, on the other hand, was a musicologist, who taught in Charleston, SC, where I am from and where we were at the time. He got distracted from our conversation by the movie as it entered into the duel scene between Barry (Ryan O’Neal) and his resentful stepson, Lord Bullingdon (Leon Vitali). He tried to keep the conversation going but as the duel progressed he kept looking away to the tv and finally interrupted us. I completely understood.
You might wonder why I’ve chosen Independence Day weekend to write about a Hungarian immigrant’s movie about a British spy in Russia. Well, silly, as I’ve said repeatedly before in this forum–America is a land of immigrants, and when better than Independence Day to celebrate our melting pot society? Plus, this is a film by Michael Curtiz, whose Yankee Doodle Dandy is playing on Monday (set your DVRs), which gives you a chance to observe just what an amazing range this filmmaker had.
British Agent (which isn’t currently on TCM’s schedule but it comes along periodically) is a story of star-crossed lovers, whose relationship plays out against the backdrop of History with a capital H. With global events on such a gargantuan scale, what are two people to do but realize that their problems don’t amount to a hill of beans? This is of course the signature theme of Michael Curtiz’s most fabled creation, but eight years before he made Casablanca, he played in the very same sandbox on a movie that has not fared so well in posterity. British Agent is, if remembered at all, remembered as an oddity. Which means, of course, I’m all over it like ants on a picnic.
Posted by Greg Ferrara on July 1, 2016
If you have ever looked at the TCM schedule and thought of several different things at once, given the variety of movies broadcast each day, you’re not alone. And if you’re a fellow Morlock, you’ve probably looked at the schedule once or twice in your time and thought, “I could write about this… or maybe that. Oh wait, what about…” and so on. Much of the time, I’ll look at what’s playing and toss around a few ideas in my head and then settle down with something that sticks with me more than anything else. Last Sunday, Jason Robards was featured on the schedule and he’s an actor I’ve always loved but never written about so I thought, “Why not now?” And then sometimes, like today, I look at the schedule and have several different ideas, none of which completely gel but also completely bust. They’re little things that interest me without really added up to anything all that extraordinary but I don’t want to let them go either. And so, without further delay, let’s wander into the valley of the half-thought out blog ideas that swirled through my head on today’s schedule.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on June 30, 2016
The remarkably durable Olivia de Havilland is celebrating her 100th birthday tomorrow. To commemorate the centennial of the actress’s birth, TCM is honoring de Havilland by making her the Star of the Month for July. For the next five weeks, viewers who tune in on Friday night will be able to see a broad selection of her work.
Her abilities and charm made de Havilland one of Hollywood’s most celebrated stars and throughout the 1930s and 40s the actress’s gentle manner and wide-eyed vulnerability led her to frequently play innocent ingénues, damsels in distress or women under duress, most notably in Gone with the Wind (1939). Despite this, I think she was often at her best in films such as The Dark Mirror (1946) and Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964), which allowed her to flex her acting muscles and exploit the darker aspects of her femininity. She was also a very funny lady and exhibited great comic timing in some of the films airing on TCM in July.
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