Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘movie rec’s’ Category

Annie is ready to party!Last year for my birthday, I received the That’s Entertainment! box set. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the That’s Entertainment box set is made of up the three eponymous titles devoted to MGM musicals of the past. It includes all three movies and a special bonus disc filled with outtakes and extra bonus footage, including some really fun excerpts of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, as well as other MGM musical stars on a 1976 episode of the Mike Douglas show. Ann Miller looks so awesome. She certainly came ready to party!

Out of all three movies, my favorite would be That’s Entertainment III (1994), mainly because that’s the one with all the deleted scenes as well as a credit-less version of Fred and Ginger dancing the Swing Trot from one of my favorites, The Barkleys of Broadway (1949). However, there was one number on there that was so disturbing, so horrible–I wound up screaming in horror: Joan Crawford lip-synching to “Two Faced Woman”.

THE MOST FRIGHTENING SCENE IN MOVIE HISTORY!

THE MOST FRIGHTENING SCENE IN MOVIE HISTORY

It’s from the 1953 musical, Torch Song. Thanks to TCM, they’re showing it on Sunday night at 11:30 pm as a part of a 24 hour Joan Crawford birthday lineup. Her age varies–some people say that she’s going to be 100 years old, while others say that she’s was born in 1904. I like to go with the latter, since it feeds into one of the reasons why Bette Davis hated her so much (Joan was looking good compared to Bette during the shoot of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Even if you go with the idea that Joan was born in 1908, she still looked a hell of a lot better than Bette–scary Baby Jane makeup notwithstanding. That’s what smoking will do to you, I guess.)

Split screen comparison

In That’s Entertainment III, Debbie Reynolds’ explains that the original version of “Two Faced Woman” was to be originally lip-synched by Cyd Charisse in The Band Wagon (1953). However Cyd’s version was cut for time and I guess the powers that be thought, “Hey! Let’s use this in the new Joan Crawford musical! And while we’re at it, let’s do it as an ‘island’ number so we can put Joan in blackface!” YIKES.

It’s pretty easy to see where “Two-Faced Woman” was to be used in The Band Wagon. It would come sometime after the lovely Astaire-Charisse “Dancing in the Dark” number and right before the scene in which Jeffrey Cordova (Jack Buchanan) starts directing around the stage props, only to be lifted into the air himself. I can see why they would cut it for time–I think it would have considerably disrupted the flow of the backstage mayhem.

Click for larger imageJoan’s legs
Cyd’s legs Vs. Joan’s legs: no contest!

Joan’s version is downright scary and it’s not just due to the horrific makeup and bad wig. India Adams’ voice just isn’t right for Joan (and to be honest, I don’t think it’s right for Cyd either). It almost makes her sound possessed, like she’s singing in a range that’s way too low for her. While Joan would have loved to do her own singing, MGM claimed that there was not enough time on the schedule to do so. Joan didn’t complain. Not only was she happy to dance again, she was back at her old home studio of MGM. Joan was terrified that no one would remember her, but the moment she stepped on the soundstage, she was thrilled–all the old technicians did in fact, remember her.

Since I’ve never seen Torch Song, I can only go by reviews that I’ve read off IMDB and on various Joan Crawford sites. And the consensus is that it’s BAD. The kind of bad that makes you laugh and laugh for hours on end. Since this was Joan’s first color movie, you get to see her dyed, flaming red hair in all it’s glory. The cast includes Michael Wilding as the blind pianist who falls in love with Joan, as well as Gig Young (Yay!), who plays Joan’s drunken, cheating boyfriend who winds up disappearing halfway through the film (Boo hiss). Torch Song was directed by Charles Waters, who was more than competent to direct a musical, having previously helmed such classics as Easter Parade (1948) and Summer Stock (1950). I’m really excited to see this movie, since I LOVE bad films just as much as I love good ones.

Also of note are the other fantastic Joan Crawford movies that TCM is showing:

Dancing Lady (1933) – 3/24 at 4:45 am – a fun musical with Clark Gable and in his screen debut, Fred Astaire–who plays a man named…Fred Astaire. Go figure. Light, fluffy entertainment.

The Women (1939)- 3/24 at 10:00 am – where Crawford plays a gold-digging, husband stealing bitch. She also gets the best line in the film, which comes at the very end of the movie.

A Woman’s Face (1941 – 3/24 at 12:15 pm) and They All Kissed the Bride (1942 – 2:15 pm – both notable for her pairing with the fantastic and always forgotten, Melvyn Douglas! I don’t know why more people don’t enjoy him today. He’s great at screwball comedy, but just as adapt in a drama as well.

Humoresque (1946) – 3/24 at 3:45 pm – A top-notch WB drama about a violinist (John Garfield) who falls in love with Joan, much to the dismay of his family. Plus, it has Oscar Levant in it. I don’t think I’ve fully expounded my love for him in this blog, but just you wait. That day will come.

Oscar Levant in “Humoresque”
My favorite neurotic: I love you, Oscar Levant!

Links: The “Films of Joan Crawford” site has a page on Torch Song here, while “Joan Crawford Best” has reviews, lobby cards and posters over here.

Read Full Post »

Oscar month on TCM is always a source of debate for devoted followers of the channel since Oscar month = More modern movies = More complaints. However, compared to years past, I think this years lineup is pretty damned good. The daytime hours consists of movies grouped together by theme, while the nighttime movies are lumped together by decade. It should also be of note that a good chunk of the movies shown during February may fall under the category of “One Time Leases”, which is great because they’re shown in the letterbox format instead of pan-and-scanned. Another site I read, Popdose, has five of their own selections. But here are mine:

Tuesday Feb. 19
9:30 pmDuel in the Sun (1946) – Selznick’s answer to Gone With the Wind, Western-style. Upon it’s release, it was deemed “racy”–no doubt in part to Jennifer Jones and Gregory Peck’s lusty, outlaw romance. There are some unintentional moments of hilarity thrown in for good measure. I won’t spoil it for you, but wait for the scene with Lionel Barrymore and Lililan Gish that comes nears the end of the movie. It’s tragically hilarious.

Thursday Feb. 21
5:45 pmKing Rat (1965)
I have never seen King Rat, so I’m hoping it’s good. However, I tend to enjoy war movies. This synopsis from the TCM guide: A U.S. officer in a World War II Japanese POW camp tries to raise money to buy his fellow prisoners’ freedom. I have high hopes for this one.

8:00 pmThe Dirty Dozen (1967)
10:45 pmThe Great Escape (1963)
The Dirty Dozen is one of my favorite movies of all time. I’m so thrilled to see it back on TCM, since it’s been on AMC for the last few months (which means no letterboxing and tons of commercials. UGH). I always take offense at the idea that this is just a movie for men. Pshaw. It’s funny, it’s action filled and it’s got great character development. What more could you want? The Dirty Dozen is a masterpiece. It’s funny and smart with a kick ass performance by Lee Marvin and directed by one of my favorites, Robert Aldrich.

Everyone knows what The Great Escape is about. The Simpsons spoofed it in the episode “A Streetcar Named Marge” (Two classic movie references for the price one, three if you include the Hitchcock “cameo” as well). But for me, the standout performance comes from Charles Bronson, “The Tunnel King”.

Saturday Feb. 23
5:45 amSummer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973)
Another movie I haven’t seen, but has been VERY high on my must-see list. IT features the greatly underrated Joanne Woodward as a wife who goes through a midlife crisis and the even more underrated Martin Balsam as her husband. I’ve been dying to see this one. I’m hoping it doesn’t get taken off the schedule at the last minute.

7:30 am – 8:00 pm: Hitchcock movies all day long.
The majority have been off TCM for the past two years, but now a good portion of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies are back (they were last on in October 2005 when TCM devoted an entire week to his movies). The marathon kicks off with my personal Hitchcock favorite, Shadow of a Doubt (1943) with Joseph Cotten (love!) and Teresa Wright, and then is followed by Notorious at 9:30 am, The Man Who Knew Too Much at 11:15 am (it’s the 1956 version with James Stewart and Doris Day), North by Northwest at 1:30 pm (a TCM owned network staple), Psycho at 4:00 pm and finishing off with The Birds at 6:00 pm. Fantastic!

Sunday Feb 24.
5:45 pmAnnie (1982)
I needed to include this since Annie was a huge part of my childhood. I can’t tell you how many times I saw this when I was a child, but I remember loving it. I’ll be seeing this for the first time in about 20 years, so I can’t wait to see what I think of it now. I thought Carol Burnett’s character was funny, not a lush. See how innocent I used to be?

And veering off the TCM topic: today would have been Arthur Kennedy’s 94th birthday. Those of you who know me (even just slightly) know how much I love him. It’s a safe bet to say that he’s my favorite actor, even though he did mostly character work with one or two turns as a leading man. Still, it’s kind of disappointing to any classic movie fan who’s b-day falls in the months of February or August (Summer Under the Stars), since you know they won’t be getting a day long TCM birthday salute. And of course, Arthur Kennedy falls in that category.

One of my favorite Kennedy movies is Bend of the River (1952)–which also happens to be my favorite Stewart/Mann western. It’s the first one I saw and you always remember your first. One of my favorite scenes comes right after the start of the bar brawl, where Rock Hudson, Kennedy and Stewart start slowly backing out of the bar…

bendoftheriver.jpg

It’s just a great scene. And according to his biography, Arthur Kennedy: Man of Characters, it was one of his favorite movies as well. I have to admit one of my other favorite scenes comes right after Julie Adams tries to pull a gun on him and Kennedy says with a twisted, mischievous grin, “I like a woman who’s not afraid to kill”. This–I have to say–is kinda hot.

Oh stop looking at me like that.

Anyway, Happy Birthday to one of the greatest, 5 time Oscar nominated character actors to ever grace the silver screen.

Read Full Post »