Thursday, August 21, 2014

My Summer of Classic Movies

I have always had a love of old movies since I was a little girl.  I would watch them with my Grandmothers, when silver screen era movies would come on in the afternoon.  This was way before TCM ( Turner Classic Movies) was on the air.  I remember black and white greats such as It's a Wonderful Life, Ball of Fire and The Canterville Ghost.  I have been watching TCM since it fist aired 20 years ago off and on, since I didn't always have cable.  Within the last 8 years, my T.V. is always on this channel. 
I made my first visit to Hollywood, CA. this Spring for the TCM Classic Movie Film Festival.  The film festival was something I had always wanted to attend since it started 5 years ago.  My sister and I went for 4 days of non stop classics.  I saw great interviews with legends such as Maureen O'Hara, Mel Brooks and Richard Dreyfuss.  I even met Ben Mankiewicz out by the pool of The Roosevelt Hotel.  Okay, I am starting to ramble now.  This Summer I have seen several movies that I have never seen before.  August is Summer Under the Stars at TCM.  A different star for each day of the month.  I will not get into every day or every actor/actress but I will hit on a few of the films that are new to me.

Claudette Colbert has always been one of my favorite actresses along with Barbara Stanwyck and Jean Arthur.  I was introduced to one her films just the other night, Three Came Home (1950).  She plays real life author Agnes Newton Keith in her own story of how she was held in a prison with her young son by the Japanese in WWII.  I figured this would be some watered down version of what happened since the movie was made in 1950.  I was surprised by how wrong I was.  It is not easy to watch as issues of starvation, sickness and violence against the women is expressed.  I am thinking of one scene in particular where Colbert's character is violently attacked by a guard and when she comes forward with the assault accusation, more brutality is brought upon her. Colbert's acting is superb as is that of her co stars, Patric Knowles, Sylvia Andrew and Florence Desmond.

I Was a Fugitive From a Chain Gang is a classic Paul Muni film, but one I had never seen before was Dr. Socrates (1935).  Somewhat shy and reserved Dr. Caldwell is the new doctor in town.  He inadvertently becomes the doctor to wounded gangsters.  A beautiful woman, played by the charming Ann Dvorak, is introduced into the mix and situations spiral out of control.  Of course, a happy Hollywood ending arrives but not before Dr. Caldwell's great escape and a thrilling police/mobster shootout.  Muni and Dvorak are great together again (Scarface 1932). 

The Letter (1940) with Bette Davis is a favorite of mine.  Bette is wonderful as is Herbert Marshall and Gale Sondergaard.  A must see!  So of course when the original 1929 version of The Letter was being shown, I had to watch.  This time Jeanne Eagels, Reginald Owen and Lady Tsen Mei as the leads.  Herbert Marshall is also in this version as a different character.  A pre code film full of murder, cheating, lying and adultery.  It does not deliver the mystery and punch of the later version but Eagels does deliver as the love crazed adulteress wife who kills her lover.  Watch both to compare. 

Several more movies to go.  I have Thelma Ritter films recorded as well as the horror classic Dr. X with Lee Tracy.  My Summer of classic movies continues.  For more information on TCM schedule and these movies go to: